Can Virtual Reality Engage Students with Teamwork?

Miela Kolomaznik, Miriam Sullivan, Kate VyVyan


Graduates’ ability to work well in teams is highly valued by employers, but teamwork is seldom taught as an explicit skill at the tertiary level. Rather, students tend to form and retain negative attitudes towards teamwork. Some proponents have proposed that immersive virtual reality (IVR) technology could make student learning more engaging. This study explored whether the immersive nature of VR headsets improved engagement with teamwork in a first-year science communication unit. We measured students’ attitudes and motivation before and after completing a tutorial designed to develop teamwork skills, and asked students to assess their peers’ teamwork behaviours. In small groups, students in IVR tutorials collaboratively solved a puzzle in an IVR maze, while students in control tutorials completed an equivalent paper-based activity. Both interventions resulted in students developing slightly more negative attitudes towards teamwork. The IVR group was slightly more likely to report their teammates displayed dominating behaviours. On most measures, students’ attitudes and motivation toward teamwork remained fixed even when tutors reported positive experiences in class. Feedback regarding drawbacks (such as nausea and costs) suggests that the addition of IVR technology is not a panacea for student engagement with teamwork.

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