Perspective-Based Feedback in a Virtual World Training Simulation and the Effects on Learning

Robb Lindgren · Emmanuel Fournier · José Carlos López

In this presentation we describe an international partnership to examine the effects of perspective on learning within a virtual world simulation. We have observed that even the most sophisticated games will often resort to giving text-based feedback when it comes to conveying important information or knowledge to the user. While we acknowledge the importance of giving direct and explicit feedback, we believe that there are powerful and innovative ways to deliver instruction that leverage the unique affordances of immersive gaming environments. Specifically, we investigate whether perspective-based feedback — or what we are calling embodied feedback — may resonate with our natural cognitive processes such that it results in higher learning outcomes.

To test this hypothesis, researchers within the School of Education at Stanford have partnered with a European-based training and simulation company named Indigo. The development team at Indigo has created a flexible new platform called VTS (Virtual Training Simulation) on top of which any number of training modules for a variety of contexts (e.g., safety and security) can be implemented. These training simulations have impressive graphics and are robust in content; however, we are currently exploring ways in which we can optimize the learning outcomes for simulation users. To carry out this investigation, we are conducting a series of studies in the U.S. where volunteers are using a particular VTS module with different feedback modes. We are comparing the performance of these users on several different measures of learning.

In the first study, 56 students at a community college in California used one of Indigo’s training simulations that taught safety procedures within a steel manufacturing plant. Half of the students got standard text-based feedback (e.g., “You should put the security tag on the control panel”), while the other half of the students were shown what they should be doing from their own perspective. The content of the feedback was essentially the same, but the way that the feedback was processed psychologically by the students was likely quite different. To detect any learning differences we have administered a number of different assessments and measures (performance time, procedural memory, spatial memory, etc.). Currently we are running a second study using the same simulation, however, students are watching a video of an “expert” using the simulation before they use it themselves. Half the students watch the expert video from the first-person perspective, and half watch from the third-person perspective. The same learning assessments are being used in this study. Results from both of these studies will be presented.

We believe that these studies will have a significant influence on the design of instructional gaming environments. The technologies that are being used for education and training have advanced tremendously in the past decade, but the pedagogies that are being enacted in these technologies are not new, and they may not be appropriate or effective given the types of interactions that games permit. We will discuss the potential of perspective-based pedagogies for games and virtual worlds.