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Catch a Mimic

Catch a Mimic is an immersive and active learning experience where learners can learn about mimicry through feedback, discover natural selection over many generations, adapt knowledge to new variations, and test and reinforce new skills through embodied gameplay. 


  • Embodiment is expected to play a key role in learning in VR. We run a randomized control trial to determine how the two factors of embodiment (low versus high) and platform (2D PC versus 3D Virtual Reality (VR)) affected STEM learning.

  • A total of 214 undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to four conditions in a 2 x 2 design with pretests and posttests. The low embodied groups did not control the virtual net in the natural selection game, they observed a playback of butterflies being captured. All groups showed significant content knowledge gains in the post-test scores.

  • There was a main effect of the embodiment; the active groups that controlled the virtual net learned more content. There was not a main effect of the platform on learning.

  • However, there was an intriguing interaction of embodiment by platform by test time revealing that the low embodied VR group learned the least (ES= .38), while the high embodied VR group learned the most (ES=1.07). The low embodied VR players may have expected to have more agency and control over the game mechanics, and playing in the observational mode was infelicitous for learning.

  • The PC condition was not significantly affected when in the more passive/observational mode. Players in the 2D PC condition may be more accustomed to low embodied learning, e.g., watching playback videos on monitors.

  • Learning Design Principle: Noninteractive objects and videos in VR should be used judiciously and designers are encouraged to make the 3D VR content manipulable and interactive.

This project is funded by NSF Grant Awards number No. 1423655.

PI: Diane Carlson. Co-PI: Mary Nucci. Co-PI: Mina Johnson-Glenberg.

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