Awe yields learning: A virtual reality study

AbstractThere is a considerable amount of literature on the role of immersion and presence in virtual reality learning environments. Far less is known about the interaction of immersion and presence on the important individual characteristics that influence learning behavior, particularly, dispositional awe. Dispositional awe is manifested by an emotional response to stimuli that defy existing mental schemas in a given domain and by a need for accommodation of these experiences. In a virtual reality study with eight elementary school classes, we investigated the interaction of immersive tendencies with dispositional awe and compassion on learning gains in the domain of nature conservation. We tested this interaction using a novel virtual reality concept in which children are sent to space and experience the overview effect, the cognitive shift in awareness reported by astronauts. The findings of the study showed that participants felt strong feelings of awe and scored highly on overview effect constructs. Moreover, results revealed learning gains were influenced by the overview effect. This study shows the potential of using immersive virtual reality experiences in educational programs, combining wonder and learning.

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