For the Newbies in Virtual Reality: A Fascinating Learning Phenomenon

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Is this your first time experiencing Virtual Reality? Are you excited to immerse yourself in a virtual world? Do you feel like you learn faster and better the first time you try it? This is due to the ‘novelty effect’. Yes, the allure of novelty is real, and it works in Virtual Reality too!

What is the Novelty Effect?

The novelty effect is the biological response to a new stimulus or situation. Humans categorize stimuli, and when faced with something that doesn’t fit into any category, it triggers this response. This new situation leads to increased brain activation, fostering exploratory behavior and improving response abilities, albeit with added stress. However, as the stimulus becomes less new or more familiar, the stress diminishes, along with the benefits. The decrease in stress can also lead to fatigue due to heightened perception of stimuli and increased external focus. This is why boredom eventually sets in. A common example is tolerance to medication: initially effective, but requiring higher doses over time as tolerance develops.

The Role of the Novelty Effect in Technology

As in real life, the novelty effect plays a crucial role in the field of technology. It sparks curiosity and garners more attention. Users perceive new technology as easy to use, reliable, and useful, treating technological innovation as a reward. However, it can also be seen as risky, being an uncategorized new stimulus. Hence, users may either accept or reject it, depending on their personality.

The Novelty Effect in Learning with New Technologies

The novelty effect is pivotal in learning through new technologies. New digital tools trigger this effect, enhancing student motivation and subsequently improving classroom behavior. However, this motivational boost wanes as students become familiar with the technology. Initially, students learn quickly, but boredom and loss of attention follow. Hence, applications, programs, and games constantly update and redesign their interfaces to keep users engaged and reinforce perceived utility. Many also incorporate gamification to leverage the novelty effect and maintain high motivation.

Imagine entering a Virtual Reality environment, a new world filled with stimuli. Initially, you’re excited and engaged, but once you’re familiar with everything, boredom sets in if there’s nothing new to discover. Fear can also limit your freedom and interaction in the environment.

Challenges of the Novelty Effect in Virtual Reality Learning

As previously explained, the novelty effect can lead to increased cognitive overload and a shift of focus from learning content to technology, especially in Virtual Reality learning. This was studied in our research papers “Countering the Novelty Effect: A Tutorial for Immersive Virtual Reality Learning Environments” and “Evaluation of the Novelty Effect in Immersive Virtual Reality Learning Experiences”. Users who underwent the tutorial to overcome the novelty effect compared to those who didn’t showed higher levels of satisfaction and usability. However, what emerged was that the users’ prior knowledge played a more significant role in the learning experience. If you want to delve deeper into the design, development, and learning outcomes of the tutorial, check out our research!

Additionally, how do you feel about using a tutorial? If you were new to Virtual Reality, would you prefer to use one or not?


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