By Christina Jurges, Ph.D., in collaboration with Sophie Callies, Ph.D.
Like many of today’s markets, the e-learning industry is slowly implementing the use of virtual reality. When it comes to quality assurance, however, we need to ask ourselves: how does this new platform change the way we work? What are the challenges to guaranteeing the best user experience? Let’s take a closer look and learn how we can prepare for the dawn of this immersive reality.
Whether it’s measuring and analyzing a learner’s behaviour, engaging with a virtual professor, or implementing innovative and interactive learning elements, the VR world is our oyster and offers almost endless possibilities for shaping the e-learning market and its products.
Open worlds lead to endless possibilities, but do endless possibilities mean endless QA testing?
The answer to this question is linked to the actual game design. Most companies use Unity as their main development platform for VR. Usually, in a VR environment, users are free to do whatever they like and go wherever they like (within the framework of the product, of course). In the case of an e-learning product, how can we ensure that users don’t get lost in their VR and spend time in areas of the virtual world that are not significant to the learning process? The solution is to guide them by the interactivity that we control. For example, we can strategically place interactive objects in the desired user path. We can also limit the interaction field and leave the rest of the world empty. The key elements here are: guidance by tasks and feedback through interactivity.
The learning experience is influenced by the level of interactivity and the possibilities available within the VR, as well as by feedback in response to the user’s actions. This feedback falls into two categories: punishment or reward.
We can also create levels that define the roadmap in which the user will be moving. In the context of e-learning, it is important to design a world that is realistic. The Presence Effect helps us understand how this word is defined in the context of VR:
The Presence Effect
Achieving the Presence Effect within VR is one of the main goals when creating a course. “Presence” in this case refers to the illusion of moving in the realms of another reality, another world (instead of just being in a room wearing a VR headset). Which elements help to guarantee the Presence Effect? To begin with, the extremely immersive technology that is available to us nowadays already helps. On top of that, the world that is created must be comprehensible, realistic and interactive. The interaction, on the other hand, must be coherent and follow real physics. Total immersion can also be achieved through sound and audio. In the specific case of an e-learning product, the implementation of tutor characters (for example, teachers or professors) who talk to the learners and quiz them can contribute to a realistic mimicking of a classroom environment.
Learning and entertaining: the best of both worlds
There is an obvious difference between VR games developed purely for entertainment (think zombie games) and VR e-learning products that focus on the transfer of knowledge and educating the user in a specific area. However, it would be a shame for the e-learning industry not to take advantage of the new possibilities and various entertaining elements that have opened up through VR. After all, learning can, and should, be fun!
Implementation of quizzes and scores
Quizzes and scores make up an important part of an e-learning product, and the implementation of these elements does not have to be a challenge in an immersive reality. For example, as a basic solution, a table could be introduced that allows the learner to checkmark certain elements. However, why would we need VR to use such an “old-school” style? A more innovative idea is to design and develop a character that approaches the learner in the VR and asks them precise questions. The learner would then need to answer the character directly. Another option is to design and implement a map on which the learner must point to the correct elements.
It is important to keep in mind that reading text is exhausting in VR, so it is recommended to limit text and work more with audio or images instead.
Oculus provides the following guidelines:
- Converging the eyes on objects closer than the comfortable distance range above can cause the lenses of the eyes to misfocus, making clearly rendered objects appear blurry as well as lead to eyestrain.
- Bright images, particularly in the periphery, can create noticeable display flicker for sensitive users; if possible, use darker colours to prevent discomfort.
- Consider the size and texture of your artwork as you would with any system where visual resolution and texture aliasing is an issue (e.g. avoid very thin objects).
- Design environments and interactions to minimize the need for strafing, back-stepping, or spinning, which can be uncomfortable in VR.”
Tracking user behaviour
When it comes to generating reports and analyzing the user’s behaviour, there are plug-ins that save the replies and send a log. With the help of various plug-ins, we can trace everything the learner does: where they go, what they look at first, the time it takes to complete a module or quiz, the number of tries it takes them, etc.
This opens up a whole new level of course analysis, which will allow courses to be designed that are even more efficient and tailored exactly to the learner’s needs as well as specific user behaviour.
QA for VR content is divided into at least two parts: functionality checks and QA of the overall ease of the user experience.