Virtual reality (VR) is considered a promising approach to support learning. An instructional design is essential to optimize cognitive processes. Studies show that VR has unique instructional and pedagogical requirements.
To evaluate the effectiveness and applicability of the modality principle, which was previously validated in 2D classic multimedia, for learning with VR. The modality principle states that multimedia information presented as spoken narration is superior to on-screen text.
A prospective experimental study with two compared conditions of instruction: VR-based learning guided by on-screen text (n = 34) versus spoken narration (n = 28). Students’ cognitive learning experiences were captured by eye-tracking and electrodermal activity (EDA). In addition, students’ knowledge was evaluated using a pre–post knowledge test.
Overall, there was no significant difference in knowledge retention between the participants who learned with on-screen text compared to spoken narration. However, results from the eye-tracking analysis showed that students who learned with the on-screen text devoted longer visual attention toward important learning activity areas of interest, suggesting a better ability to discern between relevant and irrelevant information. Conversely, students who learned with the spoken narration expressed significantly more EDA peak responses, proposing a higher cognitive load.
This study outlines that while learning with VR was effective, the modality principle might not apply to learning with VR. Moreover, the analysis of the learning process suggests even an inverse effect, favouring the provision of instructional scaffolds as on-screen text. Future research should evaluate this effect on long-term knowledge retention.