- Written by ARLtastic!
Methodist Mission Southern (MMS) delivers literacy and numeracy training into the Otago Corrections Facility, and they believe that Virtual Reality (VR) could help increase engagement with education - Animation Research Ltd has been working with MMS to achieve this, developing the VR pilot project following the success of the first prototype (developed at the University of Otago Information Science department).
The goals of the VR pilot project were to determine if VR would increase user engagement with contextualized literacy and numeracy learning, and to determine if it was viable to deliver education using VR in the longer term and to more prison sites.
Participants wore a VR headset and used a controller in each hand. This hardware ran from a standard PC, which also displayed the VR-view to instructors while the learners were immersed. There were two VR set-ups in each classroom session. The virtual environment was a mechanic's workshop with detailed virtual cars. VR activities included participating in a numeracy scavenger hunt, exploring an engine block, identifying hazards in the workshop, and participating in an adding game. Learners could also learn practical tasks such as assembling and disassembling a brake caliper, or fixing faulty brakes, while receiving a mini-lesson and learning associated vocabulary.
Activities in the virtual environment were reinforced by game-based activities on standard tablet devices, including doodling with purpose, checking for understanding (where learners relate what they have learned), and mind mapping. More specific activities included creating a parts catalog sequence and designing customer loyalty cards. Participants quickly learned how to use the VR and tablet technologies, and instructors noted that all learners were highly engaged with the VR pilot project, with most actively engaged in activities for the full two hours of each session.
The first VR pilot project sessions began in April 2019 and ran for 10 weeks. Progress was mapped using the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool (LNAAT), measured in steps 1 to 6 - results indicated that all tested learners gained at least two steps in the LNAAT for numeracy and literacy. Learners also enjoyed a range of prototype grapheme-phoneme and number concept activities delivered via game-based VR, and ongoing development work is further exploring this.