Journal of STEM Teacher Education


Virtual reality (VR) has demonstrated effectiveness as an instructional technology in many technical fields. However, VR research has generally lacked a sound theory base to provide explanatory or predictive strength. Further, research into the effectiveness of new desktop technologies that place VR within the reach of schools and teachers is currently embryonic. The study reported here is a pilot and is highly exploratory. It is a first step in developing a theory-based line of inquiry into desktop VR as an instructional technology with potential for Career and Technical Education. Grounded in several theory and research strands, this study compared the effects of presenting a complex scene via desktop VR and a set of still photographic images. The two treatments were given to groups drawn from the general population with equal representation by both genders and two age groups. Two performance measures and a confidence measure were analyzed using 2-way ANOVAs. Statistically significant main effects for treatment were found for all three measures, all in favor of the VR treatment. These findings were consistent with predictions based on the study’s theory base. Several main effects for age and gender, and trends for interactions of age and gender with treatment, were also identified that may provide impetus for further research.