University EAP Students' Perceptions of Using a Prototype Virtual Reality Learning Environment to Learn Writing Structure

University EAP Students' Perceptions of Using a Prototype Virtual Reality Learning Environment to Learn Writing Structure

Austin Pack (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China), Alex Barrett (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China), Hai-Ning Liang (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China) and Diego Vilela Monteiro (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2020010103

Abstract

This study investigates English language learner (ELL) perceptions of using a prototype virtual reality learning environment (VRLE) designed for teaching and learning writing structure. A mixed-methods approach was used, incorporating pre- and post-participation questionnaires, as well as semi-structured interviews. Participants consisted of 10 ELLs enrolled in first year English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses at a university in Mainland, China. Results indicate that while the majority of students enjoyed using the VRLE, they maintained varying attitudes regarding the usefulness of the VRLE. Additionally, results from a correlation analysis suggest that learners' attitudes towards the material or content being learned (EAP writing) significantly correlates with learners' attitudes towards using the VRLE for learning writing structure.
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Literature Review

Relevant Terms

Due to the recent and rapid development of VR technology, a short review of the key terminology and concepts as they apply in this study is necessary. Although VR is a term used liberally to describe a variety of 3-D technologies, such as massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) like World of Warcraft™, and Augmented Reality (AR) as applied in the popular smartphone game Pokémon GO™, VR is understood in the current study wherein “the real world is completely occluded from the field of view” (Martirosov & Kopecek, 2017), delivered by such platforms as the Oculus Rift™ or HTC Vive™. The key difference in this type of VR is in immersion. Immersion has been defined as “a psychological state characterized by perceiving oneself to be enveloped by, included in, and interacting with an environment that provides a continuous stream of stimuli and experiences” (Witmer & Singer, 1998). Although this definition allows for purely psychological immersion, such as that experienced when identifying with a character in a good book, the immersion experienced in VR is delivered via visual, aural and haptic feedback. This immersion, as a measurable asset of the environment, leads to a sense of presence, which is the subjective sense of being in a place (Witmer & Singer, 1998). Thus, the immersive aspects of VR can be argued to come from the technological components, while presence is psychological (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). Presence is a key attribute to VR environments used in educational contexts, as it is what allows the students a feeling of “being there”. VR environments or other 3-dimensional environments that are used for learning purposes are known as Virtual Reality Learning Environments (VRLEs).

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