Using Low-immersive Virtual Reality in Online Learning: Field Notes from Environmental Management Education

Keywords: virtual reality (VR), low-immersive, online learning, student experience, environmental management education


Recent research in the field of virtual reality (VR) education is dominated by the application, experience, and effectiveness of high-immersive environments. However, high-immersive VR may not be accessible to all learners, with online distance learning students in particular unable to fully engage without being supplied with appropriate accessories. These field notes shed light on the role of low-immersive VR as a desktop tool for online distance learning students, exploring student experience of using 360° virtual spaces to undertake a summative assessment. Primary data collection in the form of an anonymous online survey was employed to gather feedback from postgraduate environmental management students who used low-immersive VR to undertake an environmental management system audit of a university campus. Quantitative results were analysed using descriptive statistics and qualitative responses using thematic analysis. Findings indicated that with guidance from the academic teaching staff and practice using the software, the majority of students felt both prepared and happy to undertake a summative assessment using VR spaces. Skills development and an appreciation of the effectiveness of the assessment approach were also highlighted as positive outcomes reinforcing findings from literature on the value of VR to improve learning outcomes particularly with practical tasks. Limitations of the assessment content and software were however noted by students, but both could be resolved with adaptations to the tool. It is hoped this research will be valuable to online education providers to demonstrate the value of using low-immersive VR within their programmes. 


Huang, H.-M., & Liaw, S.-S. (2018). An Analysis of learners’ intentions toward virtual reality learning cased on constructivist and technology acceptance approaches. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(1).

Makransky, G., & Petersen, G. (2019). Investigating the process of learning with desktop virtual reality: A structural equation modelling approach. Computers & Education, 134, 15–30,

Makransky, G., Terkildsen, T., & Mayer, R. (2019). Adding immersive virtual reality to a science lab simulation causes more presence but less learning. Learning and Instruction, 60(1), 225–236.

Merchant, Z., Goetz, E., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K–12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29–40.

O’Connor, M., Stowe, J., Potocnik, J., Giannotti, N., Murphy, S., & Rainford, L. (2020). 3D virtual reality simulation in radiography education: The students’ experience. Radiography, 27(1), 208–214.

Pellas, N., Mystakidis, S., & Kazanidis, I. (2021). Immersive virtual reality in K–12 and higher education: A systematic review of the last decade scientific literature. Virtual Reality, 25, 835–861.

Powell, W., Powell, V., Brown, P., Cook, M., & Uddin, J. (2016). Getting around in Google cardboard – exploring navigation preferences with low-cost mobile VR. In IEEE 2nd workshop on everyday virtual reality (WEVR) (pp. 5–8). IEEE.

Radianti, J., Majchrzak, T., Fromm, J., & Wohlgenannt, I. (2020). A systematic review of immersive virtual reality applications for higher education: Design elements, lessons learned, and research agenda. Computers & Education, 147, Article 103778.

Repetto C., Germagnoli S., Triberti S., & Riva G. (2018). Learning into the wild: A protocol for the use of 360° video for foreign language learning. In P. Cipresso, S. Serino, Y. Ostrovsky, & J. Baker (Eds.), International symposium on pervasive computing paradigms for mental health (pp. 56–63). Springer.

Suh, A., & Prophet, J. (2018). The state of immersive technology research: A literature analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 86, 77–90.

Taçgın, Z. (2020). The perceived effectiveness regarding immersive virtual reality learning environments changes by the prior knowledge of learners. Education and Information Technologies, 25, 2791–2809.

Ventura, S., Brivio, E., Riva, G., & Baños, R. M. (2019). Immersive versus non-immersive experience: Exploring the feasibility of memory assessment through 360° technology. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article 2509.

Villarroel, V., Bloxham, S., Bruna, D., Bruna, C., & Herrera-Seda, C. (2018). Authentic assessment: Creating a blueprint for course design. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(5), 840–854.

Webster, R. (2015). Declarative knowledge acquisition in immersive virtual learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(6), 1319–1333.

Wu, B., Yu, X., & Gu, X. (2020). Effectiveness of immersive virtual reality using head-mounted displays on learning performance: A meta-analysis. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(6), 1991–2005.

How to Cite
Rawson, R., Okere, U., & Tooth, O. (2022). Using Low-immersive Virtual Reality in Online Learning: Field Notes from Environmental Management Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 23(4), 211-221.
Notes From the Field