Human Computer Interaction

Exploiting Object-of-Interest Information to Understand Attention in VR Classrooms

Recent developments in computer graphics and hardware technology enable easy access to virtual reality headsets along with integrated eye trackers, leading to mass usage of such devices.

The immersive experience provided by virtual reality and the possibility to control environmental factors in virtual setups may soon help to create realistic digital alternatives to conventional classrooms. The importance of such settings has become especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many schools and universities to provide the digital teaching. Researchers foresee that such transformations will continue in the future with virtual worlds becoming an integral part of education. Until now, however, students’ behaviors in immersive virtual environments have not been investigated in depth. In this work, we study students’ attention by exploiting object-of-interests using eye tracking in different classroom manipulations. More specifically, we varied sitting positions of students, visualization styles of virtual avatars, and hand-raising percentages of peer-learners. Our empirical evidence shows that such manipulations play an important role in students’ attention towards virtual peer-learners, instructors, and lecture material. This research may contribute to understanding of how visual attention relates to social dynamics in the virtual classroom, including significant considerations for the design of virtual learning spaces.