Towards understanding attention in virtual reality - Analysing visual attention in a VR-Classroom experiment

Attention can be seen as a key aspect of learning. Most of children’s everyday learning takes place in a classroom. But investigating children’s attention and learning in a real-world classroom can be difficult. Therefore, we used an Immersive Virtual Reality classroom to investigate children’s attention in a 14 minute virtual lesson. We collected information about the objects children had looked at. With the gazed object information, we analysed the total time spent on specific objects of interest (peer learners, teacher, screen) or investigated children’s visual attention behaviour with scanpath analysis (ScanMatch, SubsMatch). The study was conducted as a between design with three different classroom manipulations regarding participants sitting position, the avatar style of the peer learners and their hand raising behaviour. We found significant differences regarding children’s visual attention for the position they are seated in the classroom and regarding the visual appearance of the peer learners. Additionally, we found indications that children also process social information in the virtual classroom due to effects of the hand raising condition on children’s visual attention. These findings can be seen as a first step towards understanding children’s visual attention in an Immersive Virtual Reality classroom.