Can Virtual Reality (VR) enhance students’ learning experience?




Virtual Reality, digital technology, innovative practice, immersive learning, inclusive teaching


Immunology is a fascinating yet complex subject area to teach undergraduate students, mostly due to the vast specialised vocabulary and complex processes associated with the topic. One solution to this challenge is to embrace innovative digital technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), which immerses users in an interactive environment and encourages them to actively participate in their own learning. This alternative teaching model also creates an inclusive learning environment, allowing students to learn at their own pace, aiding their comprehension of the material. Here we describe the development and implementation of a novel VR simulation at the University of Glasgow. The bespoke ‘Battling Infection’ VR simulation takes place inside the human body: students visit different anatomical sites in their quest to eradicate an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella, interacting with and choosing the appropriate immune cells to do so. We explored how this innovative resource could support medical and life sciences students with their understanding of immunity to infection. Following the interactive VR session, students completed a voluntary questionnaire to enable us to determine the impact this digital tool had on their learning experience. Most students surveyed agreed the VR simulation enhanced their understanding of the topic and helped them to visualise the complex processes of host immunity. Some participants commented on the discomfort of the headset and others suffered motion sickness, issues commonly reported within VR technology. Overall, this study found that the VR simulation was an innovative model of educational delivery which enhances the student learning experience and helped students to conceptualise complex information. Future work will focus on student knowledge retention using this method of teaching, in addition to developing further resources to supplement the VR simulation and exploring immune responses to other pathogens. 


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