Description: Virtual reality and virtual worlds (VWs) are powerful technologies currently helping to define the digital world. These technologies are characterized by user control, immersion, and sense of presence or “being there.” They have been examined from a variety of theoretical perspectives, technical and user variables, and psychological approaches. The purpose of this study was to extend VW research relating the roles of user age, gender, and technical characteristics such as screen size, directly to the VW-critical features of immersion and perceived presence. This study used a photo-real, on-screen, first-person VW in which users “enter” and “walk through” a VW via mouse navigation, viewing it through their own eyes rather than through an avatar. It used a quasi-experimental design with 35 adult subjects who were tested for perceived immersion and presence in a VW showing a 360-degree city panorama using different screen size treatments. Data were analyzed using mixed methods (e.g., interview comments and responses to questionnaires) to examine relationships among age, gender, immersion, presence, and screen size in the VW. Findings supported conclusions relating to the relevance of age and gender as user variables in VWs and the role of technology characteristics in VWs’ effective use. The study also opened a potential new line of inquiry by raising previously unaddressed questions about the importance of the psychological trait vs. state nature and measurement of immersion and presence in VWs. Implications and recommendations for instructional design and delivery and further research are offered.
Facilitators: Dr. Jon Martens (Analytics Journey, LLC), Dr. Robert Dionne (University of Oklahoma (ret.)), Dr. Ina Agnew (Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology), Dr. Chuck Baukal (John Zink Institute), Dr. Lynna Ausburn (Oklahoma State University), Dr. Floyd Ausburn (Oklahoma State University)