A pilot study investigating students’ perception of a virtual classroom environment in higher education

Sannia Mareta, Xin Mou, Amarpreet Gill, Gabrielle Hadian, Yilin Li, Dave Towey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Purpose – Virtual reality (VR) offers many desirable features for education,
including an immersive and low-distraction experiences, and visuallyattractive virtual environments. This paper reports on a pilot study
investigating student response to VR in higher education (HE). It is part of an
ongoing university-scale project, named V-ROOM, which aims to develop a
comprehensive VR teaching and learning (T&L) platform, which aligns with
the digital T&L transformation strategy at the first Sino-foreign HE institution
in China — the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC).
Design/methodology/approach – This study involved 55 undergraduate
students — 21 in engineering programmes, and 34 in non-engineering
programmes — being immersed in a virtual classroom environment (VCE).
The instrumentation included a Likert-scaled survey and follow-up interviews.
The survey explored the overall student perceptions of the VCE, and this was
followed by an interview that enabled clarification and expansion of the
responses. Response data were evaluated across four factors: learning
motivation; engagement in the learning journey; the attraction of the VCE; and
satisfaction with the VR experience. Correlations were also analysed between
students’ overall perception and various other elements (including VCE
features, gender, and study programme).
Findings – The reliability of the survey data was examined using Cronbach’s
coefficient, which was greater than 0.8 for all factors, confirming the internal
consistency of the set parameters. The results also showed that students had a
very positive attitude towards using VR for learning, with an average score of
4.01/5.00. The VCE features, which involved a multi-sensory experience,
appeared to have a higher positive correlation with the students’ overall
perception than gender or study programme, with the visual features being the
strongest influence compared to interaction (kinesthetic) or audio (auditory)
features of the VCE.
Originality/value/implications – The results of the pilot study showed that
the respondents, who were 18 to 21 year old UNNC undergraduate students,
had an overall positive perception and learning experience of using VR for HE
T&L activity, especially in the context of integrating multi-sensory learning
elements in the VCE developed. The key findings from the current study will
be used to enhance the VCE interaction features that will support a variety of
students’ learning styles and expectations for a virtual classroom. In a broader
context, the authors hope that this paper will contribute to providing a
pedagogical infrastructure where the use of VR for learning is not a binary
option; rather, it could be implemented as an innovative digital T&L method,
complementing conventional T&L, and the existing online and blended
learning strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education (ICOIE 2021)
EditorsEva Tsang, Kam Cheong Li, Philips Wang
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789888439683
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • virtual reality
  • virtual classroom
  • student motivation
  • reliability and correlation analyses
  • multi-sensory learning


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