A virtual reality learning environment for high school students to learn the concepts of the electric field and potential

Preliminary results of an intervention study


  • Roman Schmid ETHZ
  • Andreas Vaterlaus ETHZ
  • Andreas Lichtenberger ETHZ




Background: Virtual reality (VR) is a modern technology that is currently receiving attention in many studies on how it can be used to support learning in schools. It is expected to have various benefits for learning physics. However, little attention has been given to the implementation of VR with a VR headset and to the three-dimensionality of the representations that VR technology can provide.

Purpose: We designed a three-dimensional VR learning environment for Microsoft HoloLens for learning the con-cepts of the electric field and the electric potential. In the present paper, we show preliminary results of a first inter-vention study with 26 high school students. With self-developed test instruments, we evaluate the learning progress through the VR intervention. In addition, we explore how the students rate the usability of the VR headset and the VR learning environment.

Sample/Setting: We tested our VR learning environment on two classes of a high school in Bern, Switzerland. We collected and analysed data from 26 students aged 17 to 20 from an intervention study of 75 minutes. The use of the VR learning environment was 15 minutes.

Design and Methods: In a pre- and posttest design, we investigated the effect of the VR learning environment on students’ understanding of the electric field and potential. In addition, we asked questions and evaluated the answers regarding the students’ experience with the VR headset and the VR learning environment.

Results: Students made significant learning progress by using the VR learning environment: Cohen’s d = .89. The learning progress was better in items that were similar to those of the VR learning environment, but problems occurred when students were asked to transfer their knowledge to the field of electric charges. Most students considered the technology of the VR headset as good to handle and the VR learning environment to be very interesting and beneficial for their learning process.

Conclusions: Our VR learning environment seems to be suitable for learning, which is shown by the fact that students progressed from the pretest to the posttest. However, further research needs to address the question of whether stu-dents learn better with a VR headset than on computers or with paper and pencil.

Keywords: Virtual reality, visible learning, electric field, electric potential, field vectors, 3D simulations