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VR in teaching

Multi-User VR

Multi-User VR in teaching


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Multi-User Virtual Reality Technology as a Laboratory for Learning about Social Research: Issues and Prospects

9. Benefits of using Multi-User VR in Teaching

The benefits of using multi-user VR in teaching social research are therefore that

  • Students are able to get experience in interviewing subjects in an unintimidating setting.
  • They are able to gain access to information that they would find difficult to gain access to in real-world settings.
  • With participant observation of approximately ten hours, it is relatively easy to gain insight into the social rules and the differences between groups and worlds. This is because the virtual world is in many ways less complex and more 'accessible' than the real world.
  • Some of the problems that are encountered in virtual worlds, such as the difficulty of gauging the veracity of answers, or the difference between informal conversation and structured interviews, are useful for 'sensitizing' research methods students to some of the difficulties in research and allow these to be learnt with a minimum of effort.

Areas where multi-user VR will not be useful is in research in which the researcher needs to get a 'feel' for the subject and his or her context, as well as in research where the veracity of results - or the difficulties in a real fieldwork setting - is important. An obvious disadvantage of using this method of teaching is that students will not become aware of the complexities and difficulties to be encountered in real world interviewing and participant observation. These issues could also lend themselves to interesting discussions for students about the relation between 'virtual' and 'real' fieldwork.
The findings of this project are exploratory in so far as the teaching and research consisted of small groups and brief sessions. Yet in the light of the promising results, it can be suggested that this project points to an overall positive balance of benefits of using multi-user VR. What is needed now are more systematic comparisons as to the benefits of teaching and participant observation using multi-user VR as against using conventional methods for teaching and research.

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