Affordances of mobile virtual reality and their role in learning and teaching

Photos from lessons using Google expeditions and a simulation of the Respiratory System (one of the over 600 Google Expeditions)

Conference paper on affordances of Google Expeditions

On 5th July, we presented our paper 'Affordances of Mobile Virtual Reality and their Role in Learning and Teaching' (available from Open University's Research Repository at the British Computer Society Interaction Conference at University of Sunderland.

In this paper, we have reported the technological affordances of a virtual reality smartphone-driven educational app – Google Expeditions. An affordance implies the educators' and students' perceptions of how Google Expeditions (GEs) mobile virtual reality support their teaching and learning, and influence their experiences with virtual reality (VR).

Based on a large exploratory study in Google-funded Virtual Reality Research Award, we have identified 10 affordances of GEs in our data. In the paper, for each of the affordances, we discuss the perceptions of our participants: how their experiences of learning and teaching with VR were shaped by GE’s affordances. For each of the affordances and the associated perceptions, we have included quotes to exemplify the experiences.

Role of Affordances of Google Expeditions in Learning and Teaching

We discuss how these empirically-derived affordances support pedagogical approaches of:

  • experiential learning; 
  • bridging virtual fieldwork with physical field trips; and
  • inquiry-based learning. 

Adoption of Virtual Reality in Education

We discuss that the adoption of Google Expeditions or Virtual Reality, in general, in
education is limited by various factors:

  • the discipline/subject being studied;
  • match with the curriculum; and
  • resources available including time, budgets and opportunities for continuing professional development of educators.

Our findings suggest that the most effective use of VR will be when it is combined with other technologies such as videos, podcasts, wikis, blogs or forums, and mobile apps.

The adoption of VR in education is still in its infancy and its development will progress and mature as educators (and students) perceive and exploit the affordances of this technology for their teaching and learning. 

Please have a look at our paper  and please leave your comments/queries below. 


Dr Ana-Despina Tudor and Professor Shailey Minocha at The Open University, UK 

Dr. Matthew Kam, Research Lead, Google Education Products Team

The project partners in the UK are:

Field Studies Council (Dr Steve Tilling and Mr David Morgan);

Association for Science Education (Mr Richard Needham and Ms Marianne Cutler); and

Geographical Association (Ms Rebecca Kitchen).