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Cross-cultural learning in virtual reality environment: facilitating cross-cultural understanding, trait emotional intelligence, and sense of presence

Abstract

Cross-cultural learning projects were carried out in learning environments created using Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 technologies in previous related studies. However, such environments have a limited ability to provide learners with immersive learning experiences of a foreign culture and fail to make them feel virtually present in a foreign cultural context. In this study, we aimed to create such an environment, one that enables not only communication among learners from different cultures but also gives them a sense of presence and provides an immersive experience in a foreign culture without their being physically there. To this end, based on the cultural convergence theory, we designed a cross-cultural learning activity in virtual reality (VR) using a 360-degree video technology. Two groups of university students, one from China (n = 10) and the other from Uzbekistan (n = 11), who exchanged culture-related information with each other, participated in the activity. We investigated whether cross-cultural understanding and the trait emotional intelligence of the participants was facilitated after their participation in the activity. In addition, we explored the participants sense of perceived presence in the VR environment and their acceptance of VR technology. A mixed methods research approach was adopted. We analyzed the reflective journals of the participants, administered three questionnaires, and interviewed the participants. We obtained the following four findings: First, the participants had no prior knowledge of their foreign partners’ cultures and traditions before the learning activity; however, they had knowledge that they could summarize, explain, compare, and contrast at the end of the activity. Second, the comparison of the results of the pre- and post-questionnaires showed that the two trait emotional intelligence constructs (i.e., self-control and emotionality) were significantly improved from the beginning of the activity to its end. Third, the participants perceived a high level of presence in the VR environment. Finally, the participants accepted VR technology in terms of its usefulness for cross-cultural learning and ease of use. The originality of this study lies in creating cross-cultural learning environments based on a 360-degree video technology that enables communication across cultures and gives learners a sense of presence and an immersive experience. The value of the study for the literature and its contribution to theoretical knowledge is that it creates virtual cross-cultural learning environments based on a 360-degree video technology and presents evidence suggesting that the cross-cultural learning environments created in this study can facilitate cross-cultural knowledge and perceived self-control, emotionality, and sense of presence.

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Data availability

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but will be provided by the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Funding

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Authors

Contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by XW and RS. The first draft of the manuscript was written by XW and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. Y-MH is responsible for correspondence and responding to issues in the work.

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Correspondence to Yueh-Min Huang.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the ethics committee of Nanjing Normal University, China and performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Shadiev, R., Wang, X. & Huang, YM. Cross-cultural learning in virtual reality environment: facilitating cross-cultural understanding, trait emotional intelligence, and sense of presence. Education Tech Research Dev 69, 2917–2936 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-021-10044-1

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Keywords

  • 360-degree video
  • Acceptance
  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Presence
  • Trait emotional intelligence
  • Virtual reality