Oklahoma State University College of Education, Occupational Education Studies Virtual Reality Research Team Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA Authors: Lynna J. Ausburn, Cindi Fries, Melissa Mahan, Jon Martens, Donna Sayman, Debra Steele, Earlene Washburn, and Andre Washington. The desktop VR technology essentially simulates a 3D environment through computer imagery, giving the learner a powerful “sense of being there”. Desktop VR can be produced with a digital camera and with software that can run on a desktop system. With desktop VR, a user can control navigation through the simulated 3D environment display by means of a mouse. The OSU VR team has conducted several research studies in desktop VR. Over the past several years, the team has produced desktop VR scenes, designed research, collected data, analyzed results and published papers. The scenes have been both fairly simple and quite complex and have involved familiar and basic domains known to the general public as well as more specialized and complex domains associated with professional practice, such as medical technology. The studies compared VR with other visual representation forms and also compared two different navigation features of VR scenes. This presentation summarizes our study of gender differences observed during the use of desktop VR.
Over the course of the studies we have observed differences between gender performance and perceptions that seemed to vary by environment. Understanding contextual factors such as learner characteristics and problem domain are essential to designing effective instruction, so we consider that our exploration in this area can guide further practice in using desktop VR as an effective learning tool. In order for educational technology to be effectively used, the context of the instruction environment and the learner characteristics, such as gender differences, must be understood and factored into the instructional design.
Three areas of study: Spatial performance and wayfinding and orientation Behavioral studies (attitudes, anxiety, technophobia, self-efficacy) Social construction (cultural origins of masculinization of technology, game studies)
Long history of tests (over 50 years) with spatial function tests (rotation and mental manipulation) show females generally have more difficulty than males with spatial rotation and visualization tasks. Examples of tests: Differential Aptitude, Card Rotation, Generic Mental Rotation, Primary Mental Abilities – Spatial Relations Test, Guilford-Zimmerman Test of Spatial Orientation More difficulty in spatial navigation of virtual environments was seen in females, although it could possibly be reduced by training on interface. (Hunt and Waller) Human way finding and navigation theory applied to complex environments: male strategies are more appropriate for navigation (bearing to landmarks) while female strategies are more suitable to tracking and piloting (describing control points and route cues). (Hunt and Waller; Lawton)
Self-efficacy (Bandura): belief or confidence in one’s ability to take appropriate action to successfully perform a certain task. Technological self-efficacy is lower for females, who rate self-perception of computer skills lower than males. Attitudes toward technology: males have greater interest and knowledge, and females find technology more difficult and less interesting. Males generally have more comfort and confidence with computers. (Temple & Lipps) Gender related differences in computer experience account for considerable variance in performing spatial tasks in VR. (Waller, Knapp & Hunt) Females generally exhibit more technophobia and computer anxiety than males although some report that the gap is decreasing over time. (Todman & Day; Weil & Rossen)
Technology as a masculine domain is a socially constructed concept that has been historically used to define masculine and feminine roles. Computer culture is linked to a masculine world view, which forces girls and women to choose to embrace technology or opt for culturally accepted views of themselves as feminine. (AAUW) Languages, images, and concepts used to mass market various forms of technology perpetuate cultural stereotypes of the nature of technology. (Gannon) A large portion of videogame market is focused towards masculine interests with emphasis on aggression and violence. Females are less likely to engage in spatially related computer activities (Hess and Niura) Girls tend to like games with story lines, good instructions, and personal interactions. Boys tend to like games with action and violence, and challenging interfaces. (Heeter)
The conceptual models shows the causal relationship of influences and outcomes as mediated through technological self-efficacy. The influencers are: Visual and spatial skills Experience and background Orientation, navigation and way finding The outcomes are: Technological performance Perception of performance The influencers affect technology self-efficacy, which, in turn, impacts the outcomes, as shown by the arrows in the diagram. The outcomes of performance and perception of performance are also interrelated.
The results of the house scene VR were not consistent with expected findings, but the results of the operating room scene VR were consistent with expected findings.
Our research has measured two types of performance metrics and one perception metric with instruments developed by the team” Scenic orientation (multiple choice requiring subjects to position themselves in scene, such as “behind you” or “to your right”) Recall of scenic details (correct items that can be recalled and listed in a given time period, usually one minute) Perceived confidence in scenic comprehension (self-reported rating on 5 point scale) Qualitative semi-structured Interviews were also conducted in the surgical technology study).
Study 1: VR presentation of rooms of house vs. still imagery (8 color photographs) N=80, from general population, equally divided by male/female and age (18 – 35 and 36 - 60) Results: VR produced better results in scenic orientation, detail recall, and confidence for both genders and age groups Females performed significantly better in scenic orientation and recall of details, as well as confidence. They also benefited more than males in using VR in both performance and confidence measures. Discussion: These results are somewhat unexpected according to theory but may be due to the familiar and non-technical nature of the scene. The performance of females in Study 1 may be explained by: Concreteness and representational fidelity of VR Ability of VR to supplant combining images from multiple sources (reducing cognitive load) The house scene was visually simple, had no labels or identifiers, was familiar and free of complex navigation requirements The supplantation effect was greater than the cognitive load.
Study 2: VR presentation of two operating rooms. One OR scene had standard hot spot navigation and the other had a mapping feature to assist orientation. N = 42, surgical technician students; 36 females (85.7%), 6 males (14.3%) Results: Females scored significantly lower on scenic orientation and were less confident, as well as rating the learning tasks as more significantly difficult. Discussion: The results of this study are more in line of what is to be expected from a theoretical perspective. The scene was considerably more complex and unfamiliar than the scene in the first study. The high cognitive load of the highly technical scene and the complexity of the VR controls likely overloaded the supplantation effect of the VR treatment, resulting in poor performance and confidence levels for female subjects.
Four males were interviewed. Qualitative comments regarding the experience from males were all positive. Sixteen females were interviewed. Females presented less positive impressions, with 6 rating the experience positive, 2 neutral, and 7 negative. Many comments were made regarding confusion, uncertainty, difficulty, frustration, and being lost. Some comments from females indicated that they did not consider VR and gaming to be related. There was a general lack of understanding of VR technology and pervious computer and gaming experience was discounted as not being relevant.
Waller asserted that training on VR interfaces could reduce or eliminate the gender gap. We are currently designing tutorial instruction on using VR for further research. Designers will need to be aware of gender differences and design appropriate interfaces and instructional, especially in highly gendered environments. As with most instructional design, context is a key element to consider in the design of desktop VR teaching and learning and could consist of: Gender differences VR interfaces Subject area Scene complexity
Vr Gender Research
Gender differences in desktop virtual reality performance and perception
Understanding gender differences is key to using desktop VR effectively
Our theoretical base draws from three areas of study Spatial -Visual ✔ ✔ Behavioral ✔ Social Construction
Visual-spatial studies examine gender difference in acquiring and using spatial information
Behavioral studies examine computer attitudes and technology self-efficacy
Social construction studies note the masculine nature of technology
Our conceptual framework links influences and outcomes Perception of Technological Performance Influences Outcomes Visual-Spatial Skills Experience and Background Orientation, Navigation and Wayfinding Styles and Skills Technological Performance Technology Self-Efficacy
Our research results regarding gender performance were not always explained by theory ✖ House Scene ✔ Operating Room Scene
We measured two performance and one perception metric
Females performed better in simple, familiar non-technical environments Cognitive Load Supplantation Effect
Males performed better in a complex and unfamiliar technical environment Cognitive Load Supplantation Effect
Qualitative interviews offer additional insights Female, age 18: “I like to feel it, touch it, so [the computer] kind of makes me feel a little stressed….” Female, age 21: “I would learn a whole lot more if I was actually physically in the room.” Female, age 26: “That was very frustrating.” Female, age 21: “…it was kind of confusing…a little bit difficult….” Female, age 21: “..it doesn’t motivate me at all to look at that, I’m just like…there’s no point.”
Appropriate training on the VR interface can reduce or eliminate differences Design Considerations ✔ ✔ Gender differences ✔ ✔ Scene complexity Subject area VR tool interface