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  • Published: 15 June 2022

Distance education strategies to improve learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Nature Human Behaviour volume  6 ,  pages 913–914 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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A randomized controlled trial of approximately 4,500 households in Botswana during the COVID-19 pandemic was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of using low-tech learning interventions during school closures. A simple combination of phone tutoring and SMS messages substantially improved learning in primary school children in a cost-effective manner.

The problem

The COVID-19 pandemic placed enormous pressure on education systems worldwide. At the peak of the crisis, school closures forced over 1.6 billion learners out of classrooms, exacerbating a learning crisis that existed before the pandemic 1 . Widespread school closures are not unique to COVID-19 — teacher strikes, summer breaks, earthquakes, viruses such as influenza and Ebola, and extreme weather conditions all result in school closures. The cost of school closures has proven to be substantial, particularly for households of lower socioeconomic status 2 , 3 . Reducing learning loss requires outside-school interventions that can effectively deliver instructions to children. However, little evidence exists on how to implement cost-effective learning interventions during school disruptions that can reach as many families as possible.

The solution

The use of mobile phones provides a potential solution to deliver educational instruction when schooling is disrupted, with the advantage of being widely accessible and cost effective 4 . However, this ‘low-tech’ solution is less commonly used in education relative to ‘high-tech’ approaches that rely on internet-based instruction, despite only 15–60% of households in low- and middle-income countries having internet access. By contrast, it is estimated that 70–90% of households own at least one mobile phone, suggesting that the use of mobile phones has the potential to provide educational instruction in resource-constrained contexts at scale. To examine this possibility, we conducted a randomized controlled trial, with a sample of approximately 4,500 households across Botswana, testing two mobile phone-based methods as low-tech solutions to support parents when educating children during the COVID-19 pandemic. In one treatment arm, SMS messages provided a few basic numeracy ‘problems of the week’; a second treatment arm supplemented these weekly SMS messages with a live 15–20-minute phone call from a teacher to provide a walkthrough of numeracy problems.

We found that SMS messages alone had little effect on household engagement in education and learning. However, a combination of phone calls with SMS interventions resulted in a pronounced improvement, increasing learning by 0.12 standard deviations (Fig. 1 ) — or up to 0.89 standard deviations of learning per US $100 — which represents one of the most cost-effective learning interventions 5 . We further developed remote assessments, as a means to measure learning, and found that targeting instruction on the basis of the results of assessments improved learning gains in certain proficiencies, particularly for place value and fractions (Fig. 1 ). Finally, we found high parental engagement: parents became more confident and accurate in their beliefs about their child’s education. Overall, this study shows that instruction through mobile phones can provide an effective, scalable method for education delivery beyond traditional schooling approaches.

figure 1

The graph shows the effects (in standard deviations) of multiple learning strategies relative to the control (no intervention) group. ‘Average level’ represents results from the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 0 to 4 scale corresponding to no operations (0), addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. ‘Place value’ and ‘fractions’ refer to two types of problem. Each group (such as ‘phone + SMS’) refers to randomized treatment groups pooled across the designated category. ‘Targeted’ refers to children in a subset that received additional targeted instruction on the basis of child-specific learning levels; ‘not targeted’ refers to children within a subgroup that did not receive targeted instruction. © 2022, Angrist, N. et al.

The implications

Our findings have immediate policy relevance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt schooling. Even where schools have re-opened, instruction time has often been reduced owing to social distancing measures, such as double-shift systems in which half of the students attend school in the morning and the other half attend in the afternoon.

Providing additional educational instruction out of school is therefore a current priority. More broadly, our findings have implications for the role of simple, low-tech methods to support education during many forms of school disruption, including teacher strikes, summer holidays, public health crises, weather shocks, natural disasters, and in refugee and conflict settings. In moments in which schooling is disrupted, education systems require resilient approaches to continue to provide education.

Despite our trial including a very large sample size, our data are limited to a single context: the COVID-19 pandemic in Botswana. Future research might involve similar trials to assess how well a low-tech learning approach can be adapted across low- and middle-income countries. We are currently engaged in an active research agenda focused on education in emergencies, which includes a multicontext study testing the adaptability and scalability of remote mobile phone education across five countries: India, Kenya, Nepal, the Philippines and Uganda. Finally, it is important to note that our study evaluates only a subset of potential interventions; other low-tech methods of educational instruction, such as radio and TV, require further investigation.

Noam Angrist 1,2

1 University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

2 Youth Impact, Gaborone, Botswana.

Expert opinion

“This is a timely and carefully executed and analysed study. The authors provide evidence of a promising, innovative, replicable, potentially scalable and cost-effective intervention to address the massive educational challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a valuable contribution to the literature, although it remains unclear whether the observed short-term gains persist or wane further into the future.” Juan E. Saavedra, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Behind the paper

We launched this study within a month of school closures in Botswana, providing some of the first experimental evidence on distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic. This rapid response was enabled by the depth and breadth of presence of Youth Impact in Botswana — an evidence-based nongovernmental organization that provides health and education programmes. Youth Impact provides education services to over 20% of primary schools in the country in partnership with the government, and had experience in running more than 20 rapid randomized trials prior to the pandemic. Our study demonstrates the power of real-time, rigorous evidence to identify effective solutions in a moment of enormous uncertainty and need. The results emerged quickly, were policy-relevant and have been followed by efforts in at least 5 countries reaching over 20,000 students, galvanizing a global and growing evidence base on effective approaches to education in emergencies. N.A.

From the editor

“The challenge of mitigating learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial, and this paper by Angrist et al. stands out for its efforts to tackle this problem and test an intervention that could potentially be widely implemented.” Aisha Bradshaw, Senior Editor , Nature Human Behaviour .

Angrist, N., Djankov, S., Goldberg, P. K. & Patrinos, H. A. Measuring human capital using global learning data. Nature 592 , 403–408 (2021). This paper reports evidence of low levels of learning and limited educational progress across 164 countries, a phenomenon that the international education community has called ‘the learning crisis’ .

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Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J. & Greathouse, S. The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: a narrative and meta-analytic review. Rev. Educational Res. 66 , 227–268 (1996). This paper reports learning losses from annual summer vacations — a recurring school closure .

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Andrabi, T., Daniels B. & Das J. Human capital accumulation and disasters: evidence from the Pakistan earthquake of 2005. J. Hum. Res . 0520-10887R1 (2021). This paper reports learning losses from an earthquake, a school disruption with long-term ramifications .

Aker, J. C., Ksoll, C. & Lybbert, T. J. Can mobile phones improve learning? Evidence from a field experiment in Niger. Amer. Econ. J. Appl. Econ. 4 , 94–120 (2012). This paper demonstrates the potential of education provided via mobile phone for adults in a low-resource setting .

Kremer, M., Brannen, C. & Glennerster, R. The challenge of education and learning in the developing world. Science 340 , 297–300 (2013). This review article summarizes cost-effective and rigorously evaluated interventions in education .

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This is a summary of: Angrist, N., Bergman, P. & Matsheng, M. Experimental evidence on learning using low-tech when school is out. Nat. Hum. Behav . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01381-z (2022)

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Distance education strategies to improve learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nat Hum Behav 6 , 913–914 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01382-y

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research on distance learning and technology

How technology is shaping learning in higher education

About the authors.

This article is a collaborative effort by Claudio Brasca, Charag Krishnan , Varun Marya , Katie Owen, Joshua Sirois, and Shyla Ziade, representing views from McKinsey’s Education Practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift to remote learning overnight for most higher-education students, starting in the spring of 2020. To complement video lectures and engage students in the virtual classroom, educators adopted technologies that enabled more interactivity and hybrid models of online and in-person activities. These tools changed learning, teaching, and assessment in ways that may persist after the pandemic. Investors have taken note. Edtech start-ups raised record amounts of venture capital in 2020 and 2021, and market valuations for bigger players soared.

A study conducted by McKinsey in 2021 found that to engage most effectively with students, higher-education institutions can focus on eight dimensions  of the learning experience. In this article, we describe the findings of a study of the learning technologies that can enable aspects of several of those eight dimensions (see sidebar “Eight dimensions of the online learning experience”).

Eight dimensions of the online learning experience

Leading online higher-education institutions focus on eight key dimensions of the learning experience across three overarching principles.

Seamless journey

Clear education road map: “My online program provides a road map to achieve my life goals and helps me structure my day to day to achieve steady progress.”

Seamless connections: “I have one-click access to classes and learning resources in the virtual learning platform through my laptop or my phone.”

Engaging teaching approach

Range of learning formats: “My program offers a menu of engaging courses with both self-guided and real-time classes, and lots of interaction with instructors and peers.”

Captivating experiences: “I learn from the best professors and experts. My classes are high quality, with up-to-date content.”

Adaptive learning: “I access a personalized platform that helps me practice exercises and exams and gives immediate feedback without having to wait for the course teacher.”

Real-world skills application: “My online program helps me get hands-on practice using exciting virtual tools to solve real-world problems.”

Caring network

Timely support: “I am not alone in my learning journey and have adequate 24/7 support for academic and nonacademic issues.”

Strong community: “I feel part of an academic community and I’m able to make friends online.”

In November 2021, McKinsey surveyed 600 faculty members and 800 students from public and private nonprofit colleges and universities in the United States, including minority-serving institutions, about the use and impact of eight different classroom learning technologies (Exhibit 1). (For more on the learning technologies analyzed in this research, see sidebar “Descriptions of the eight learning technologies.”) To supplement the survey, we interviewed industry experts and higher-education professionals who make decisions about classroom technology use. We discovered which learning tools and approaches have seen the highest uptake, how students and educators view them, the barriers to higher adoption, how institutions have successfully adopted innovative technologies, and the notable impacts on learning (for details about our methodology, see sidebar “About the research”).

Double-digit growth in adoption and positive perceptions

Descriptions of the eight learning technologies.

  • Classroom interactions: These are software platforms that allow students to ask questions, make comments, respond to polls, and attend breakout discussions in real time, among other features. They are downloadable and accessible from phones, computers, and tablets, relevant to all subject areas, and useful for remote and in-person learning.
  • Classroom exercises: These platforms gamify learning with fun, low-stakes competitions, pose problems to solve during online classes, allow students to challenge peers to quizzes, and promote engagement with badges and awards. They are relevant to all subject areas.
  • Connectivity and community building: A broad range of informal, opt-in tools, these allow students to engage with one another and instructors and participate in the learning community. They also include apps that give students 24/7 asynchronous access to lectures, expanded course materials, and notes with enhanced search and retrieval functionality.
  • Group work: These tools let students collaborate in and out of class via breakout/study rooms, group preparation for exams and quizzes, and streamlined file sharing.
  • Augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR): Interactive simulations immerse learners in course content, such as advanced lab simulations for hard sciences, medical simulations for nursing, and virtual exhibit tours for the liberal arts. AR can be offered with proprietary software on most mobile or laptop devices. VR requires special headsets, proprietary software, and adequate classroom space for simultaneous use.
  • AI adaptive course delivery: Cloud-based, AI-powered software adapts course content to a student’s knowledge level and abilities. These are fully customizable by instructors and available in many subject areas, including business, humanities, and sciences.
  • Machine learning–powered teaching assistants: Also known as chatbot programs, machine learning–powered teaching assistants answer student questions and explain course content outside of class. These can auto-create, deliver, and grade assignments and exams, saving instructors’ time; they are downloadable from mobile app stores and can be accessed on personal devices.
  • Student progress monitoring: These tools let instructors monitor academic progress, content mastery, and engagement. Custom alerts and reports identify at-risk learners and help instructors tailor the content or their teaching style for greater effectiveness. This capability is often included with subscriptions to adaptive learning platforms.

Survey respondents reported a 19 percent average increase in overall use of these learning technologies since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Technologies that enable connectivity and community building, such as social media–inspired discussion platforms and virtual study groups, saw the biggest uptick in use—49 percent—followed by group work tools, which grew by 29 percent (Exhibit 2). These technologies likely fill the void left by the lack of in-person experiences more effectively than individual-focused learning tools such as augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR). Classroom interaction technologies such as real-time chatting, polling, and breakout room discussions were the most widely used tools before the pandemic and remain so; 67 percent of survey respondents said they currently use these tools in the classroom.

About the research

In November 2021, McKinsey surveyed 634 faculty members and 818 students from public, private, and minority-serving colleges and universities over a ten-day period. The survey included only students and faculty who had some remote- or online-learning experience with any of the eight featured technologies. Respondents were 63 percent female, 35 percent male, and 2 percent other gender identities; 69 percent White, 18 percent Black or African American, 8 percent Asian, and 4 percent other ethnicities; and represented every US region. The survey asked respondents about their:

  • experiences with technology in the classroom pre-COVID-19;
  • experiences with technology in the classroom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • desire for future learning experiences in relation to technology.

The shift to more interactive and diverse learning models will likely continue. One industry expert told us, “The pandemic pushed the need for a new learning experience online. It recentered institutions to think about how they’ll teach moving forward and has brought synchronous and hybrid learning into focus.” Consequently, many US colleges and universities are actively investing to scale up their online and hybrid program offerings .

Differences in adoption by type of institution observed in the research

  • Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and universities made the most use of classroom interactions and group work tools (55 percent) and the least use of tools for monitoring student progress (15 percent).
  • Private institutions used classroom interaction technologies (84 percent) more than public institutions (63 percent).
  • Public institutions, often associated with larger student populations and course sizes, employed group work and connectivity and community-building tools more often than private institutions.
  • The use of AI teaching-assistant technologies increased significantly more at public institutions (30 percent) than at private institutions (9 percent), though overall usage remained comparatively higher at private institutions.
  • The use of tools for monitoring student progress increased by 14 percent at private institutions, versus no growth at public institutions.

Some technologies lag behind in adoption. Tools enabling student progress monitoring, AR/VR, machine learning–powered teaching assistants (TAs), AI adaptive course delivery, and classroom exercises are currently used by less than half of survey respondents. Anecdotal evidence suggests that technologies such as AR/VR require a substantial investment in equipment and may be difficult to use at scale in classes with high enrollment. Our survey also revealed utilization disparities based on size. Small public institutions use machine learning–powered TAs, AR/VR, and technologies for monitoring student progress at double or more the rates of medium and large public institutions, perhaps because smaller, specialized schools can make more targeted and cost-effective investments. We also found that medium and large public institutions made greater use of connectivity and community-building tools than small public institutions (57 to 59 percent compared with 45 percent, respectively). Although the uptake of AI-powered tools was slower, higher-education experts we interviewed predict their use will increase; they allow faculty to tailor courses to each student’s progress, reduce their workload, and improve student engagement at scale (see sidebar “Differences in adoption by type of institution observed in the research”).

While many colleges and universities are interested in using more technologies to support student learning, the top three barriers indicated are lack of awareness, inadequate deployment capabilities, and cost (Exhibit 3).

Students want entertaining and efficient tools

More than 60 percent of students said that all the classroom learning technologies they’ve used since COVID-19 began had improved their learning and grades (Exhibit 4). However, two technologies earned higher marks than the rest for boosting academic performance: 80 percent of students cited classroom exercises, and 71 percent cited machine learning–powered teaching assistants.

Although AR/VR is not yet widely used, 37 percent of students said they are “most excited” about its potential in the classroom. While 88 percent of students believe AR/VR will make learning more entertaining, just 5 percent said they think it will improve their ability to learn or master content (Exhibit 5). Industry experts confirmed that while there is significant enthusiasm for AR/VR, its ability to improve learning outcomes is uncertain. Some data look promising. For example, in a recent pilot study, 1 “Immersive biology in the Alien Zoo: A Dreamscape Learn software product,” Dreamscape Learn, accessed October 2021. students who used a VR tool to complete coursework for an introductory biology class improved their subject mastery by an average of two letter grades.

Faculty embrace new tools but would benefit from more technical support and training

Faculty gave learning tools even higher marks than students did, for ease of use, engagement, access to course resources, and instructor connectivity. They also expressed greater excitement than students did for the future use of technologies. For example, while more than 30 percent of students expressed excitement for AR/VR and classroom interactions, more than 60 percent of faculty were excited about those, as well as machine learning–powered teaching assistants and AI adaptive technology.

Eighty-one percent or more of faculty said they feel the eight learning technology tools are a good investment of time and effort relative to the value they provide (Exhibit 6). Expert interviews suggest that employing learning technologies can be a strain on faculty members, but those we surveyed said this strain is worthwhile.

While faculty surveyed were enthusiastic about new technologies, experts we interviewed stressed some underlying challenges. For example, digital-literacy gaps have been more pronounced since the pandemic because it forced the near-universal adoption of some technology solutions, deepening a divide that was unnoticed when adoption was sporadic. More tech-savvy instructors are comfortable with interaction-engagement-focused solutions, while staff who are less familiar with these tools prefer content display and delivery-focused technologies.

According to experts we interviewed, learning new tools and features can bring on general fatigue. An associate vice president of e-learning at one university told us that faculty there found designing and executing a pilot study of VR for a computer science class difficult. “It’s a completely new way of instruction. . . . I imagine that the faculty using it now will not use it again in the spring.” Technical support and training help. A chief academic officer of e-learning who oversaw the introduction of virtual simulations for nursing and radiography students said that faculty holdouts were permitted to opt out but not to delay the program. “We structured it in a ‘we’re doing this together’ way. People who didn’t want to do it left, but we got a lot of support from vendors and training, which made it easy to implement simulations.”

Reimagining higher education in the United States

Reimagining higher education in the United States

Takeaways from our research.

Despite the growing pains of digitizing the classroom learning experience, faculty and students believe there is a lot more they can gain. Faculty members are optimistic about the benefits, and students expect learning to stay entertaining and efficient. While adoption levels saw double-digit growth during the pandemic, many classrooms have yet to experience all the technologies. For institutions considering the investment, or those that have already started, there are several takeaways to keep in mind.

  • It’s important for administration leaders, IT, and faculty to agree on what they want to accomplish by using a particular learning technology. Case studies and expert interviews suggest institutions that seek alignment from all their stakeholders before implementing new technologies are more successful. Is the primary objective student engagement and motivation? Better academic performance? Faculty satisfaction and retention? Once objectives are set, IT staff and faculty can collaborate more effectively in choosing the best technology and initiating programs.
  • Factor in student access to technology before deployment. As education technology use grows, the digital divide for students puts access to education at risk. While all the institution types we surveyed use learning technologies in the classroom, they do so to varying degrees. For example, 55 percent of respondents from historically Black colleges and universities and tribal colleges and universities use classroom interaction tools. This is lower than public institutions’ overall utilization rate of 64 percent and private institutions’ utilization rate of 84 percent. Similarly, 15 percent of respondents from historically Black colleges and universities and tribal colleges and universities use tools for monitoring student progress, while the overall utilization rate for both public and private institutions is 25 percent.
  • High-quality support eases adoption for students and faculty. Institutions that have successfully deployed new learning technologies provided technical support and training for students and guidance for faculty on how to adapt their course content and delivery. For example, institutions could include self-service resources, standardize tools for adoption, or provide stipend opportunities for faculty who attend technical training courses. One chief academic officer told us, “The adoption of platforms at the individual faculty level can be very difficult. Ease of use is still very dependent upon your IT support representative and how they will go to bat to support you.”
  • Agree on impact metrics and start measuring in advance of deployment. Higher-education institutions often don’t have the means to measure the impact of their investment in learning technologies, yet it’s essential for maximizing returns. Attributing student outcomes to a specific technology can be complex due to the number of variables involved in academic performance. However, prior to investing in learning technologies, the institution and its faculty members can align on a core set of metrics to quantify and measure their impact. One approach is to measure a broad set of success indicators, such as tool usage, user satisfaction, letter grades, and DFW rates (the percentage of students who receive a D, F, or Withdraw) each term. The success indicators can then be correlated by modality—online versus hybrid versus in-class—to determine the impact of specific tools. Some universities have offered faculty grants of up to $20,000 for running pilot programs that assess whether tools are achieving high-priority objectives. “If implemented properly, at the right place, and with the right buy-in, education technology solutions are absolutely valuable and have a clear ROI,” a senior vice president of academic affairs and chief technology officer told us.

In an earlier article , we looked at the broader changes in higher education that have been prompted by the pandemic. But perhaps none has advanced as quickly as the adoption of digital learning tools. Faculty and students see substantial benefits, and adoption rates are a long way from saturation, so we can expect uptake to continue. Institutions that want to know how they stand in learning tech adoption can measure their rates and benchmark them against the averages in this article and use those comparisons to help them decide where they want to catch up or get ahead.

Claudio Brasca is a partner in McKinsey’s Bay Area office, where Varun Marya is a senior partner; Charag Krishnan is a partner in the New Jersey office; Katie Owen is an associate partner in the St. Louis office, where Joshua Sirois is a consultant; and Shyla Ziade is a consultant in the Denver office.

The authors wish to thank Paul Kim, chief technology officer and associate dean at Stanford School of Education, and Ryan Golden for their contributions to this article.

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  • Open access
  • Published: 15 November 2023

A student-centered approach using modern technologies in distance learning: a systematic review of the literature

  • Nurassyl Kerimbayev 1 ,
  • Zhanat Umirzakova 1 ,
  • Rustam Shadiev 2 &
  • Vladimir Jotsov 1 , 3  

Smart Learning Environments volume  10 , Article number:  61 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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A literature review was conducted to develop a clear understanding of the student-centered approach using modern technologies in distance learning. The study aimed to address four research questions: What research experience already exists in the field of the student-centered approach in distance learning? What modern technologies are used in distance learning, and how are they related to the student-centered approach? What are the advantages and limitations of implementing the student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning? What recommendations can be derived from existing research for the effective implementation of the student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning? The purpose of writing this review article is to provide a comprehensive overview of the student-centered approach using modern technologies in distance learning and its advantages. To conduct this review, a Web of Science and Scopus database was searched using the keywords “student-centered approach,“ “modern technologies,“ and “distance learning.“ The search was limited to articles published between 2012 and 2023. A total of 688 articles were found, which were selected based on their relevance to the topic. After the verification and selection process, 43 articles were included in this review. The main results of the review revealed that the student-centered approach to learning took various forms or was defined individually, and there were significant differences in the main research findings. The review results provide a comprehensive overview of existing studies, advantages and limitations of the student-centered approach using modern technologies in distance learning as well as examples of successful implementation in various educational institutions. The article also discusses the challenges that online and distance learning may pose to the student-centered approach, the modern technologies that support the student-centered approach, and suggests ways to overcome these challenges. The role of technology in facilitating the student-centered approach in online and distance learning is analyzed in the article, along with recommendations and best practices for its implementation. The student-centered approach is gaining increasing attention and popularity as a means to address these issues and improve the quality of online and distance learning.

Introduction

The student-centered approach is a teaching and learning method that places the needs and interests of students at the center of the educational process. It emphasizes engagement, collaboration, and student autonomy, aiming to create a learning environment that supports, challenges, and aligns with students’ needs and goals. In his research, Khoury ( 2022 ) argues that this approach has a positive impact on student motivation, active engagement and improved learning outcomes, especially in online and distance learning settings.

Modern education strives for active learning, where students become the center of the educational process and develop their skills and competencies (Katawazai, 2021 ). However, the implementation of this concept is difficult due to various problems, including lack of infrastructure and limited resources. Despite this, the use of modern information technologies, especially distance learning, provides enormous opportunities for the application of this concept, where the teacher plays the role of a mentor, helping students develop learning motivation and stimulating their independent learning activities (Haleem et al., 2022 ; You, 2019 ). In the realm of education, there is a significant discourse surrounding the idea of prioritizing students in the learning process, involving them actively, and tailoring educational experiences to their needs and interests. Numerous studies, including those by Bakar et al. ( 2013 ), Neumann ( 2013a , b ), and Komatsu et al. ( 2021 ), explore diverse facets of this educational approach. These investigations delve into topics such as crafting learning environments that revolve around the learner and the hurdles faced when translating this concept into practical implementation.

Student-centered learning (SCL) involves active student participation in the educational process and the ability for students to choose what, when, where, and how they will learn. In the field of teaching statistics, there has been a rapid expansion in the use of SCL. However, despite this, there is a lack of research that synthesizes the results in this area, particularly in the context of computer technologies (Judi & Sahari, 2013 ). Schweisfurth ( 2015 ) emphasizes the importance of flexible learning methods, and (Oyelana et al., 2022 ) highlight active participation, individual attention and motivation. Research Lahdenperä et al. ( 2022 ) shows that teacher support and control of learning tasks promote regulated learning. Asoodeh et al. ( 2012 ) further confirm that a student-centered approach improves academic achievement and social skills. However, the successful implementation of this approach requires changes in the organization of the educational process and teacher training, as indicated in the study by Burner et al. ( 2017 ). At the same time Tadesse et al. ( 2021 ), Zhang et al. ( 2022 ) and Knorn et al. ( 2022 ) emphasize the importance of interactive and constructivist learning, providing a deeper understanding of the material.

Theoretical framework e-learning

A student-centered approach to e-learning involves orienting the educational process towards the needs and interests of students. This approach assumes that students actively participate in their own learning, define their learning goals, choose ways to achieve these goals, and independently assess their progress (Kumar & Owston, 2016 ). In the context of the accessibility of e-learning, a student-centered approach can be used to identify accessibility issues that cannot be automatically detected. In a student-centered e-learning environment, various tools and technologies are used to help students acquire knowledge in a more interactive and effective format (Santoso et al., 2016 ; Verstegen et al., 2016 ; Dolmans 2019 ; Rodrigues et al., 2019 ). For example, chats, forums, web conferences, online quizzes, and assignments allow students to communicate and collaborate with each other, exchange ideas, and receive feedback from teachers and fellow students (Serban & Vescan, 2019 ). Advanced methods, tools, and technologies are applied to create a SCL process on electronic platforms. Special attention is given to the use of machine learning methods and data analysis to personalize the educational process according to each student’s needs and level of knowledge. Santoso et al. ( 2018 ) also provide a description of the development and testing process of a control panel, which demonstrates that its use can improve the quality of learning in a student-centered e-learning environment.

Kerimbayev et al. ( 2022 ) investigated the implementation of the I-learning platform in the education system and emphasized the advantages of this innovative platform, which contributes to improving the quality of education and facilitating collaboration between teachers and students. The article also highlights the importance of integrating technology into education to enhance the quality of education and prepare students for modern employment requirements.

Methods and technologies of e-learning with a focus on a student-centered approach are described by Uskov et al. ( 2014 ), who discuss the creation of an individual electronic educational environment that can be tailored to the needs and knowledge level of each learner. The application of intelligent technologies to enhance student learning is emphasized. Various methods and approaches, such as adaptive learning, personalization of the educational process, the use of online courses, and other electronic tools, are employed. Faisal et al. ( 2019 ) propose the use of machine learning methods and data analysis to create personalized educational materials and improve interaction among students.

In the age of the Internet, traditional lectures are becoming less appealing to students, leading to a decrease in their motivation for learning and exam performance. However, widespread adoption of student-centered teaching methods aimed at addressing this issue faces certain obstacles, such as: (1) difficulties related to preparing materials for e-learning; (2) significant additional time required for active online communication with students; (3) resistance from students towards taking an active role in their education; (4) insufficient confidence of teachers that a student-centered approach covers all necessary topics. Dȩbiec ( 2017 ) describes a thematic study conducted in an introductory course on digital systems using a combination of student-oriented strategies to overcome the mentioned obstacles and improve students’ performance. Specific measures included: (1) improving student-teacher relationships; (2) using inductive and counterintuitive approaches to introduce new concepts; (3) the use of puzzle-based quizzes integrated with peer learning; (4) use of the audience response system; (5) replacing some lectures with educational programs; (6) reducing the course duration; and (7) utilizing a graphic tablet.

Student-centered e-learning involves the use of technologies that allow teachers and students to personalize learning, such as data analysis and adaptive learning. Courses are developed considering the interests and needs of students, which can enhance their motivation and learning efficiency. Student-centered e-learning also involves the use of interactive teaching methods such as assignments, cases, group discussions, and presentations, which enable students to actively participate in the learning process (Hermans et al., 2013 ). Student-centered e-learning helps ensure a high level of individualization in education and enhances learning effectiveness. As a result, students can receive quality education that meets their needs and helps them achieve their learning goals. It has been established that online courses require the application of more effective learner-centered teaching methods. This approach allowed students to choose assignments they prefer, including both traditional projects and more active actions such as demonstrations or skill mastery. To determine the extent to which these changes contributed to active learning, course data analysis was conducted. Students successfully completed assignments, demonstrating proficiency in various skills, and positively evaluated the flexible learning approach. Hanewicz et al. ( 2017 ) confirmed that using student-centered methods that consider their preferences is an effective approach for online courses.

Background: online learning

The impact of a student-centered approach to online learning on student satisfaction, particularly for those with limited experience in online education, has been studied. Researchers focus on constructs such as teacher-student interaction, active student participation in discussions and assignments, personalized learning, and others. Structural equation modeling was employed to test hypotheses regarding the influence of five key elements of SCL in online courses: learner relevance, active learning, authentic learning, student autonomy, and computer competency on students’ perception of satisfaction with online courses and distance learning (Ke & Kwak, 2013 ; Ribeiro-Silva et al., 2022 ). The results demonstrated that all five SCL structures significantly influenced student satisfaction with online courses and distance online learning.

To develop effective online courses, it is important to utilize research-backed principles and practices that are student-centered and can be theoretically justified and explained based on empirical data. It is crucial to identify evidence-based practices that have proven effective in attracting and retaining students in online courses (McCombs, 2015 ). Student-centered online environments serve as important tools for education in the modern world, providing students with access to educational materials anytime and anywhere, as well as offering a convenient and flexible learning format (Rayens & Ellis, 2018 ). Such an approach can improve the quality of learning and enhance student motivation, ultimately leading to more effective and successful education.

A personalized approach to online learning in higher education takes into account the individual cognitive and motivational characteristics of each student, unlike universal approaches that do not consider these differences. This allows for more effective enhancement of student motivation, self-esteem, self-efficacy, intrinsic values, and improves the quality of education and preparation for professional activities. However, the personalized approach may not have a significant impact on students’ course-related performance and task value. Data analysis can also provide more detailed information about students’ learning behavior and help develop further intervention strategies to improve the quality of education (Smit et al., 2014 ).

Smit et al. ( 2014 ; Figueiró & Raufflet, 2015 ) investigated the application of self-determination theory in establishing an educational setting centered around students. Their multilevel analysis revealed that students in this environment exhibited elevated levels of perceived autonomy, competence, relatedness, and motivation, gauged by their enjoyment and effort. When autonomy is granted within a nurturing context, a learner-focused approach can enhance student motivation.

Some higher education institutions are transitioning from a traditional teacher-led model to a student-centered model. However, this process is happening slowly due to the lack of clear instructions and trust in teachers. Yap ( 2016 ) investigated the challenges schools face in this process and the influence of a student-centered model. Various student-centered teaching methods have been examined, but insufficient attention has been given to what teachers themselves can do to achieve this model. Different technologies, such as online learning and multimedia, have been presented as supportive tools for this model. The study also presents a SCL model that includes key strategies and clear recommendations for teachers. The traditional teaching model was compared to multimedia and online learning in terms of their impact on student understanding and motivation, using pre-tests, post-tests, surveys, and student feedback (Bonnici et al., 2016 ) to inform how the modality and style of online learning can be improved and adapted to student needs.

Related work with distance learning

Currently, as virtual learning becomes increasingly popular and widely used in various fields, including education, it becomes important to ensure effective interaction between learners and technologies in virtual learning environments. To achieve this goal, a student-centered approach is necessary, which allows for individualizing the learning process, taking into account the needs and interests of each learner.

The interaction between learners and technologies in virtual learning environments is an important topic in the field of e-learning. It encompasses various aspects such as interfaces and usability, accessibility of materials, feedback and support, collaborative work and communication, as well as the ability to personalize and customize learning (Borba et al., 2018 ). Technologies used in virtual learning environments can impact the effectiveness of learning and stimulate active student engagement in the learning process. For example, modern technologies such as online forums, video conferences, and mobile applications can provide a more flexible and convenient environment for communication and collaboration among students and instructors. Chui et al. ( 2020 ) discuss the use of machine learning in virtual learning environments, specifically the creation of personalized learning plans for students. Machine learning algorithms can be used to analyze student data, such as test scores and system activity, and based on that, create individualized learning plans that take into account each student’s unique needs and abilities.

Kerimbayev et al. ( 2020 ) discussed the use of the learning management system (LMS) Moodle as a virtual educational environment to enhance interactive communication in education. The authors discussed the advantages of this approach in facilitating collaboration among students and instructors and improving overall education quality. The study demonstrated the effectiveness of LMS Moodle in creating an interactive and engaging learning environment.

Practical approaches to virtual learning environments in the context of distance learning and online education have been explored. Various aspects of virtual learning environments, including their definition, history, and evolution, the technologies used, learning models and methods, as well as research related to the effectiveness of virtual learning environments, have been discussed (Flavin & Bhandari, 2021 ). Different aspects of virtual learning, such as its effectiveness, accessibility, usability, and technological challenges, have been examined. Almarzooq et al. ( 2020 ) also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of virtual learning compared to traditional classroom-based learning, considering virtual learning as an effective tool for educating medical professionals both during the pandemic and in the long term.

Marín-Díaz et al. ( 2022 ) analyzed how universities transitioned to virtual learning, the technologies used, and how it impacted the educational process and student engagement. They also examined both the positive and negative aspects of virtual learning and discussed future development possibilities for virtual learning environments. To enhance student self-efficacy in virtual learning through mobile educational applications, Hussain et al. ( 2021 ) described key approaches to improving student self-efficacy in virtual learning using mobile apps and provided recommendations for their use. They also discussed the impact of mobile educational apps on improving students’ confidence in their knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as increasing their motivation to learn.

The use of artificial intelligence technologies that explain decision-making in virtual learning environments to make learning more student-centered is also discussed. The principles underlying explainable artificial intelligence and the application of machine learning and data analysis methods to enhance student-virtual learning environment interaction (Alonso & Casalino, 2019 ; Laužikas & Miliūtė 2021 ). The role of explainable AI in improving assessment and providing feedback to students in virtual learning environments is also explored. This includes online courses, webinars, virtual classrooms, interactive textbooks, etc., which can involve both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (non-real-time) learning. Virtual learning can be beneficial for distance learning in blended learning programs that combine both traditional and virtual teaching methods (Jotsov et al., 2021 ). Numerous studies focus on the effectiveness of virtual learning and the optimization of teaching processes in virtual environments. Aslan and Duruhan ( 2021 ) conducted research on the impact of a virtual learning environment developed based on a problem-oriented approach to teaching on students’ academic performance, problem-solving skills, and motivation. The results showed that the use of problem-oriented virtual learning environments improved students’ academic performance, problem-solving skills, and motivation compared to traditional teaching approaches. Skalka et al. ( 2019 ) developed a system for automated assessment of programming skills using virtual learning environments. Their study compared the effectiveness of automated assessment with traditional manual assessment methods in programming education. The results showed that automated assessment using virtual learning environments was more effective than traditional manual assessment methods. This study highlights the potential of virtual learning environments for automated assessment and improving programming education.

It can be seen that the use of e-learning has increased significantly since 2012 and continues to grow (Fig.  1 ). Specifically, in 2023, the highest usage was recorded for “Virtual learning,“ followed by “Online learning” and “e-learning.“ Additionally, it is worth noting that the usage of “Virtual learning” reached its peak in 2023, while the usage of “Online learning” and “e-learning” continues to rise. Regarding scholarly articles, it can be inferred that the number of articles on this topic correlates with the popularity of these learning modalities. The highest number of articles was published in 2023, while the lowest was in 2013.

figure 1

Growth and use of e-learning (Online learning, Virtual course of study, e-learning) from 2012 to 2023

This Table  1 provides a description and characteristics of three learning modalities: e-learning, online learning, and virtual course of study. It allows for comparing their differences, advantages, and features. For each learning modality, their main characteristics and distinctive features are provided. For example, e-learning involves the use of computer programs and can be both a standalone form of learning and a complement to tradition

Research gap and study objective

Currently, despite extensive scientific discussion, research issues related to the concept of a student-centered approach and the successful integration of student-centered educational tools when using various educational technologies in the context of e-learning remain the subject of active discussion and research. Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses have attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of educational technologies in creating learning environments that are tailored to students’ needs and interests. Shehata et al. ( 2023 ) conducted a systematic review of literature reviews to assess the current state of student-centered learning facilitated using educational technology. Ochôa and Wise ( 2021 ) discuss the role of student-centered analytics in supporting the digital transformation of education. Zhang et al. ( 2023 ) examine student-centered learning in the context of the case method and conduct an analysis of online and offline discussions within this teaching method. Shemshack and Spector ( 2020 ) conducted a systematic review of terminology associated with personalized learning. Yang et al. ( 2023 ) focused on student engagement in the context of emergency distance learning. Khaldi et al. ( 2023 ) conducted a systematic literature review on gamification in e-learning in higher education.

A study by Yang et al. ( 2018 ) evaluates the effectiveness of smart classrooms and highlights the importance of integrating technology into the teaching process. While the study by Peng et al. ( 2019 ) focuses on a personalized adaptive learning approach implemented using smart learning environments. Both of these studies are highly relevant for better understanding the impact of modern educational technologies on teaching methods and contribute to the creation of more personalized educational scenarios.

Conducted research Mustafa et al. ( 2023 ) examines the impact of gamification on students’ online learning behavior and academic performance, taking into account the perspective of learning analytics. Huang et al. ( 2023 ) work explores educators’ readiness to implement Online Merge Offline (OMO) learning in the context of digital transformation. At the same time, Topuz et al. ( 2022 ) considered current trends in online assessment systems in the context of an emergency transition to distance learning. Kerimbayev et al. ( 2023 ), is engaged in the development of computational thinking in online collaborative learning using educational robotics. Wang et al. ( 2022 ) examined the temporal aspect of gender differences in online learning behavior. These studies make important contributions to the understanding of various aspects of modern educational technologies and their impact on learning and teaching.

Research Objective: The aim of this study is to conduct a systematic literature review on the topic of “Student-Centered Approach and Modern Technologies in Distance Learning.“ The main objective is to analyze and summarize existing knowledge and research on this topic to identify key trends, advantages, limitations, and recommendations regarding the student-centered approach and the use of modern technologies in distance learning.

Research Questions:

To achieve the stated research objective, the following questions are formulated:

What research experience already exists in the field of the student-centered approach in distance learning?

What modern technologies are used in distance learning, and how are they related to the student-centered approach?

What are the advantages and limitations of implementing the student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning?

What recommendations can be derived from existing research for the effective implementation of the student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning?

The study will focus on seeking answers to these questions and providing a comprehensive literature review that will assist researchers, educators, and practitioners in the field of education to develop strategies and methods for the effective implementation of the student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning.

Methodology

Use of modern technologies.

The use of modern technologies in a student-centered approach in education is an important and promising area of research. Modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, adaptive systems, and chatbots, can significantly enhance the educational process, making it more personalized, interactive, and effective.

One of the main advantages of using modern technologies in a student-centered approach is the ability to individualize learning. Adaptive learning technologies allow for the adaptation of educational materials and teaching methods to individual needs and preferences of each student. This facilitates more effective comprehension of the material, increases student motivation, and fosters interest in learning.

Furthermore, the use of modern technologies promotes active student engagement and the development of collaborative work. Virtual environments and tools enable students to collaborate, exchange ideas, solve problems together, and develop communication skills. This is particularly important in the context of collaborative learning, where students may be located in different places and interact virtually.

However, it is important to consider the limitations and challenges associated with the use of modern technologies in a student-centered approach. Firstly, accessibility and availability of technologies may be uneven, especially for students from less developed regions or social groups. This can create educational inequalities and exclude certain categories of students.

Secondly, effective use of technologies requires qualified educators who can appropriately integrate technologies into the learning process and provide support to students. A shortage of trained teachers may hinder the successful implementation of the student-centered approach.

Additionally, ethical and confidentiality issues related to the use of modern technologies in education should be taken into account. Collection and storage of student data, particularly in the context of using artificial intelligence, must adhere to high standards of security and confidentiality.

Several studies in the field of education and information technology have explored various aspects of technology integration in the educational process. One article examined the role of teachers, the internet, and technology in the education of the younger generation (Szymkowiak et al., 2021 ). Another study investigated students’ perceptions of e-learning platforms (Moodle, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (Alameri et al., 2020 ; Gamage et al., 2022 ). Another research focused on bridging the digital divide and acquiring digital skills among elderly individuals (Blažič & Blažič, 2020 ). Influencing factors on the acceptance of mobile learning (m-learning) in higher education were explored in another article (Qashou, 2021 ). A review of digital transformation in education was presented in a study (Bilyalova et al., 2020 ). The use of artificial intelligence in higher education was investigated using structural equation modeling (Chatterjee & Bhattacharjee, 2020 ). Augmented and virtual reality technologies in anatomical education underwent a systematic review (Uruthiralingam & Rea, 2020 ). Overall, these studies reflect different aspects of information technology application in education and highlight the role of teachers, the internet, digital skills, and various technological platforms in student learning.

In Fig.  2 the use of various modern technologies in education is described. Each technology has its own advantages and contributes to the improvement of the learning process. The use of modern technologies in education has a significant impact on the educational process. Interactive e-textbooks offer engaging learning experiences, where students have access to up-to-date information and can instantly assess their knowledge. Web and video conferencing enable students to communicate remotely, participate in discussions, and engage in virtual lectures and seminars. Online learning platforms provide convenient access to educational materials and interactive tools, facilitating self-paced learning and knowledge assessment. Virtual laboratories allow for hands-on practical learning in a safe virtual environment, developing skills in working with technical devices and software. Mobile learning applications offer flexibility and accessibility to educational materials and assignments, allowing students to learn anywhere and anytime. Artificial intelligence and machine learning support personalized learning, automate assignment grading, and offer individual recommendations. Virtual and augmented reality create engaging and immersive educational environments, visualizing complex concepts and enabling practice of practical skills. The use of social networks fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing among students. All these modern technologies greatly enrich the educational process, making it more engaging, effective, and accessible for learners.

figure 2

Utilization of modern technologies in education

Overall, the use of modern technologies in a student-centered approach opens up significant prospects for enhancing education. However, for successful implementation of this approach, it is necessary to consider limitations and challenges, develop effective implementation strategies, and provide appropriate support and training for the teaching staff. Only then can we fully leverage the potential of modern technologies in education and create more effective and SCL environments.

Research context and data coding

This article presents two methodological approaches to educational research, enriched by a coding scheme, which is a systematic method for analyzing and classifying data obtained from a study. These methodologies allow researchers to effectively analyze and interpret data to better understand various aspects of educational processes. A critical aspect of such analysis is the number of studies conducted within each of the identified methodological approaches. In quantitative studies that use a coding scheme, data are presented in numerical form and are coded according to predetermined parameters or criteria, including coding for level of education (primary, secondary, high school, college, postgraduate), as indicated in several reviews (e.g. Shehata et al., 2023 ; Bremner et al., 2022 ; Khaldi et al., 2023 ). Qualitative research using a coding scheme focuses on the analysis of qualitative data; researchers use a coding scheme to identify key themes, concepts, and categories in the collected data.

After collecting the sources, the content is analyzed and the information from different sources is synthesized to identify common trends and patterns in the chosen field. The literature review method can also include a critical evaluation of the selected sources to determine their credibility, reliability, and relevance.

In this study, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) (Page et al., 2021 ) methodology for systematic reviews was adopted to ensure a transparent process of developing the search strategy, defining inclusion criteria, and identifying relevant publications. Then, the AMSTAR 2 (Shea, 2017 ) critical appraisal strategy was applied to assess the quality of the publications.

The protocol for a systematic literature review on student-centered approach and modern distance learning technologies, based on the PRISMA methodology and AMSTAR 2 critical appraisal strategy, includes the following steps:

Defining the research question and developing a publication search strategy in databases, considering existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Assessing the quality and relevance of publications based on pre-established inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Extracting data from selected publications and conducting a qualitative synthesis of the obtained results.

Evaluating the quality of the data using the AMSTAR 2 critical appraisal strategy and preparing a corresponding quality assessment report.

The search strategy

In our systematic search strategy, we utilized the most relevant terms and synonyms that encompass the key concepts of this study, which were identified based on previous systematic reviews.

We define scientific data as the obtained factual material, generally accepted in the study of distance learning problems and which, due to its data quality, makes it possible to validate them, as well as reproduce research. For study reproducibility, the full search string can be specified. Example of search and substring strings used (search/substring//substring): “student centered approach”/“student centered approach definition”//“student centered approach meaning”; “modern technologies in distance learning”/“latest technology in online learning”//“emerging technologies in distance education”; “online learning”/“online education”//“online teaching”; “virtual learning”/“virtual learning environment”//“virtual education”; “e-learning”/“e-learning platform”//“e-learning in education”, et al.

We conducted an information search on the Internet not only using a short search summary of the document (bibliography), but also the full text. It should be noted that the distinctive feature of such systems is less formalization of the request, simplicity and clarity of the search engine.

Based on their reputation for comprehensive coverage of literature in the field of student-centered approaches to education and feedback research, we chose Web of Science and Scopus as the most relevant databases for our search queries.

Inclusion criteria

During the initial stage of literature review, we applied three main inclusion and exclusion criteria. We included only studies published in English, as the majority of research publications in this field are written in English. We also included publications published from 2012 to 2023. Finally, to ensure the originality, credibility, and quality of the selected publications, we included only peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals.

During the second stage of screening, we selected only empirical research studies. Conceptual studies were excluded from our analysis.

Identification of relevant publications

During the screening process, a total of 688 articles were identified from the selected databases (Web of Science—187, Scopus—288, other sources—213). After removing 385 duplicates in the first stage of screening, the number of articles was reduced to 303. Subsequently, in the second stage of screening, we analyzed the titles and abstracts according to our inclusion criteria. Out of these 303 articles, 260 did not meet our criteria and were excluded from further analysis, resulting in a final set of 43 articles. These 43 articles were included in the quality assessment. Figure  3 illustrates the stages of our screening and selection process.

figure 3

Flowchart of the process of identification and selection of studies in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines

Quality assessment

We used the quality assessment criteria proposed by Shea ( 2017 ) within the framework of AMSTAR 2. These criteria are based on a study conducted to assess the quality of both quantitative and qualitative research. The quality assessment criteria were evaluated at four levels: high, moderate, low, and critically low.

The results of the quality assessment of the 43 systematic reviews conducted using the AMSTAR tool are provided in Additional file 1 : Appendix 1. Among them, 10 were assessed as low quality (AMSTAR score 0–6), 19 as moderate quality (7–11 points), and 10 as high quality (12–16 points). It is worth noting that no conflicts of interest were identified in any of the included studies or the systematic reviews.

The Table  2 presents the main materials and methods used in the student-centered approach to online learning. Each column corresponds to a specific aspect of this approach, and the rows represent various methods and materials used to achieve personalized and engaging learning. The table includes the following categories: “Personalized Content,“ “Interactive Lessons,“ “Flexible Schedule,“ “Collaborative Learning,“ and “Continuous Assessment.“ This table provides a summary and systematic organization of information about the methods that help create a more effective and individually oriented educational environment for students.

These materials and methods contribute to the creation of online learning that is learner-centered, flexible, engaging, and effective. By employing a student-centered approach, online learning can become a valuable tool for students to acquire new skills and knowledge and fully unleash their potential.

The systematic literature review revealed that the student-centered approach and modern technologies play a significant role in distance learning. Numerous studies confirm that the student-centered approach promotes active student engagement in the learning process and enhances their motivation to learn. It also contributes to the development of self-regulated learning and critical thinking skills among students.

Dunbar and Yadav ( 2022 ) analyzed the effects of implementing a summer educational program involving students through service learning on the transition to SCL. The work by Rapanta ( 2021 ) explored the potential of integrating a dialogic argumentation method, oriented towards students, in various subject areas. The report by Grammens et al. ( 2022 ) presents a systematic review of the roles and competencies of teachers in synchronous online learning using video conferencing technologies. Ashiru et al. ( 2022 ) presented a student-centered approach to studying the choice of business education programs at the university level. A study by Muller and Mildenberger ( 2021 ) provides a systematic review of blended learning in higher education, aimed at providing flexible learning by replacing some face-to-face time with online environments. Lastly, Bremner et al. ( 2022 ) research presents a systematic review of the outcomes of student-centered pedagogy. These works contribute to understanding the effectiveness and benefits of SCL in various educational contexts.

In recent years, virtual learning has significantly expanded its use and overtaken e-learning, becoming the second most popular form of learning after online learning. This indicates the growing popularity of virtual learning and its importance in the modern educational context. According to the data in Fig.  4 , e-learning was used in 21%, virtual learning in 37%, and online learning in 42%. This diagram provides information about the distribution of different forms of education and helps understand which forms are the most popular and in demand in the educational environment.

figure 4

Frequency of use of various forms of education

In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted on the use of virtual educational tools and technologies. For example, Kerimbayev ( 2016 ) research explores the possibilities and implementation of virtual learning, providing insights into its advantages, challenges, and significance in modern education. The study contributes to a better understanding of virtual learning environments and their impact on teaching and learning processes. Radianti et al. ( 2020 ) contribute to understanding virtual educational environments and their application in various areas of learning and education. These studies deepen our understanding of virtual educational environments and their influence on teaching and learning processes in different fields of education.

Aull ( 2020 ) examines student-centered assessment and feedback on written assignments in the online environment. Cavalcanti et al. ( 2021 ) conduct a systematic review of automatic feedback in the online learning environment.

There are also studies addressing artificial intelligence and its application in online education, such as the research conducted by Ouyang et al. ( 2022 ). Other studies in this list examine online entrepreneurship education, the impact of online learning on students with cognitive impairments, as well as the challenges associated with the online component of blended learning and the issues faced by teachers in the online environment (e.g., works by Rasheed et al., 2020 ; Martin et al., 2020 ). The study by Juliantara et al. ( 2022 ) focuses on student-related factors in online learning.

Saleem et al. ( 2022 ) provides a literature review on the application of gamification in e-learning. Giannakos et al. ( 2022 ) conduct a systematic literature review, exploring the potential of e-learning to enhance organizational learning.

The overall trend in these studies indicates the importance of a student-centered approach, the use of various technologies and tools, as well as the development of students’ skills and competencies in online learning. They also emphasize the significance of feedback, collaboration, and flexibility in the online environment.

In general, these studies provide valuable information and recommendations for the development and implementation of student-centered online learning. They also underscore the importance of continuous improvement and the application of new approaches and technologies in this field.

In relation to the use of modern technologies in distance learning, research also highlights the importance of developing information and communication skills among students. It has been shown that the use of technologies can contribute to the development of collaborative learning, online processing, and other forms of active interaction among students. Online learning also enables students to receive feedback and support from their teachers and peers.

The presented diagram is the result of a synthesis of literature analysis, based on the analysis of a number of studies conducted in the field of distance education, taking into account the use of modern technological solutions (Fig.  5 ). This literature review provides a quantitative assessment of academic work on each of the identified technologies and provides valuable insight into the direction and scope of research in the field.

figure 5

Analysis of the number of studies in the field of modern technologies in distance education

The learner-centered approach to education has been investigated by several researchers, and the results of these studies show that such an approach can take various forms and be individually determined. Furthermore, significant differences in the key findings of these studies have been identified. Kang and Keinonen ( 2018 ) examine the influence of different learner-centered approaches on students’ interest and achievements in the field of science, emphasizing their positive impact on the learning process. Zhang et al. ( 2021 ) explore factors related to the implementation of learner-centered teaching methods, revealing the challenges and difficulties faced by educators. However, overall, the learner-centered approach is considered more effective and appropriate in informal learning settings as it allows students to develop their skills and knowledge, taking into account their individual needs and interests.

The diagram represents various student-centered methodologies related to education and indicates the number of studies conducted in each of these methodologies (Fig.  6 ). The types of methodologies include the development of artificial intelligence in virtual education, assessment and development in student-oriented e-learning environments, literature review studies, student-centered case method in online and offline modes, quantitative research on the impact of SCL, development of learner-centered pedagogy, systematic review of student-centered pedagogy, and the creation of a student-centered online learning environment.

figure 6

Methodology and amount of research in education

From the presented data, it can be observed that the number of publications indexed in the Scopus and Web of Science databases is unevenly distributed across years (Fig.  7 ). In 2012, Scopus registered more articles than Web of Science. In the subsequent years, the situation changed, and in 2014, Scopus registered significantly more articles than Web of Science. In 2020, the number of publications in both databases was substantial, but Scopus still surpasses Web of Science. Overall, it can be concluded that the number of publications in Scopus and Web of Science is unstable and can vary from year to year.

figure 7

Publications in Scopus and Web of Science by years (2012–2023)

However, the systematic literature review also identified some challenges and limitations associated with the implementation of student-centered approaches and modern technologies in distance learning. Some studies highlight the need for more effective training of teachers in technology use and the application of student-centered approaches. It is also noted that individual needs and differences of students should be taken into account when designing and implementing educational programs.

Overall, the systematic literature review confirms the significance of student-centered approaches and modern technologies in distance learning. It emphasizes their positive impact on student engagement, the development of self-regulation and critical thinking skills, as well as the creation of conditions for more flexible and personalized education. However, for the effective implementation of these approaches and technologies, further work is required in terms of teacher training, program adaptation, and providing support to students in the online learning environment.

Thus, the findings of the systematic literature review confirm that student-centered approaches and modern technologies play an important role in distance learning. They contribute to active student participation, educational individualization, and the development of necessary skills. However, further work is needed for the effective implementation of these approaches and technologies in educational practice.

The results of the study confirmed that there is considerable experience in the field of distance learning in applying a student-centered approach. Modern technologies such as interactive platforms, adaptive learning systems and virtual reality are closely related to this approach. The advantages of introducing a student-centered approach and modern technologies are the individualization of learning, improved interaction and accessibility of education. However, limitations include the need for access to technology and the difficulty of adapting traditional models to a remote format. For effective implementation, it is recommended to ensure the availability of technology, integrate a student-centered approach, organize interaction and support for students, and conduct ongoing research on the effectiveness of implementation.

This section discusses the relationship between the student-centered approach and the use of modern technologies in distance learning based on the conducted systematic literature review. It assesses the advantages and challenges associated with implementing such an approach in the context of distance learning and discusses the prospects for its development and recommendations for practice.

In this study, various works related to the topic of student-centered approaches and modern technologies in distance learning were examined. The study by Wang and Zhang ( 2019 ) explores the relationship between the student-centered approach, deep learning, and self-assessment of skill improvement among higher education students in China. The work by Xie et al. ( 2020 ) and Yin et al. ( 2021 ) examines motivation, engagement, and academic achievement of students in the context of an inquiry-based approach. Chen and Tsai ( 2021 ) delve into the utilization of mobile technologies in education and teachers’ perceptions of this approach. Brouwer et al. ( 2019 ) explore interaction and a sense of belonging within learning environments that prioritize learners. Cheng and Ding ( 2021 ) make a comparison between the behavior and motivation of Chinese teachers and students in this educational context. Al-Balushi et al. ( 2020 ) examine teachers’ and their supervisors’ perceptions of student-centered classrooms and the learning process. Overall, these works enrich our understanding of the impact of the student-centered approach and the use of modern technologies in distance learning on student motivation, interaction, and achievement.

In addition to the previous works, the following studies related to the topic of student-centered approaches in education have also been explored. Polly et al. ( 2015 ) examine the relationship between teacher professional development, their outcomes, and student achievement using a mathematics program for elementary school teachers as an example. Marioara ( 2015 ) discusses the changes in education associated with the implementation of a student-centered approach. The work by Rich ( 2021 ) investigates teacher agency when using mathematical instructional programs and their impact on SCL. Haber-Curran and Tillapaugh ( 2015 ) examine transformative learning with an emphasis on a student-centered approach in leadership education. Frambach et al. ( 2014 ) study student behavior in discussions in student-centered education across different cultures. Baeten et al. ( 2013 ) explore student-centered teaching methods and their impact on students’ approaches to learning in higher professional education. Adam et al. ( 2017 ) conduct a systematic review of self-regulated learning and online learning. Aytaç and Kula ( 2020 ) perform a meta-analysis of studies on the impact of student-centered approaches on the development of students’ creative thinking. Finally, Metsälä and Törnroos ( 2021 ) conduct a literature review on the benefits and effectiveness of student-centered strategies in healthcare education. These works provide additional scientific evidence for the significance of the student-centered approach in modern education and its impact on student learning and development.

Baeten et al. ( 2010 ) examine the use of SCL environments to stimulate deep approaches to learning. Bower and Hedberg ( 2010 ) conduct a quantitative multimodal analysis of teaching and learning discourse in a web-conferencing environment and assess the effectiveness of student-centered learning-based designs. Hew and Cheung ( 2014 ) investigate the motivation and issues faced by students and instructors in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Rabin et al. ( 2019 ) conduct an empirical study on the antecedents of achievement of student-centered outcomes in MOOCs. Cela et al. ( 2015 ) explore social network analytics in e-learning. Chen et al. ( 2021 ) conduct a systematic review of technology adoption in online and blended entrepreneurial education. Cinquin et al. ( 2019 ) investigate online learning and cognitive impairments. Garcia et al. ( 2018 ) conduct a systematic review of self-regulated learning using electronic tools in computer science education. Wong et al. ( 2015 ) describe a model for integrating learning management systems, MOOCs, and flipped classrooms in an integrated Moodle learning system. Harris et al. ( 2013 ) provide a literature review confirming the significant impact of student-centered schools on learning. Hernández-Velázquez et al. ( 2021 ) conduct a systematic review of literature on the relationship between mobile learning and student-centered design. Margot and Kettler ( 2019 ) review teachers’ perceptions of integration and education in STEM fields. Marín ( 2022 ) critically analyzes SCL in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mousavinasab et al. ( 2021 ) conduct a systematic review of intelligent learning systems, their characteristics, applications, and assessment methods. O’Donnell et al. ( 2017 ) present a systematic review of personalized approaches to studying traumatic events. Rukmini et al. ( 2018 ) conduct a meta-analysis and systematic literature review on student-centered learning and its relationship with academic achievement and soft skills. Shah and Kumar ( 2020 ) present concepts of student-centered learning.

Student-centered teaching strategies are approaches to education that emphasize the needs and interests of students rather than the requirements of the curriculum or the teacher. These strategies take into account individual differences among students, their cultural and social context, and different learning styles. They help students develop critical thinking, self-esteem, and self-regulation (Andersen & Andersen 2017 ). However, research shows that student-centered teaching strategies may have a negative impact on the academic performance of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Therefore, for the effective implementation of student-centered teaching strategies, it is necessary to consider the context of their application and provide the necessary support and resources to students so that they can successfully meet their educational needs and goals.

The advantages of a student-centered approach and the use of modern technologies in distance learning include:

Student motivation: The student-centered approach and modern technologies allow creating interactive and attractive educational environments that stimulate the interest and motivation of students. This promotes active student participation in the learning process.

Individualized learning: Through the use of modern technologies and a student-centered approach, educators can adapt educational materials and methodologies to meet the individual needs and proficiency levels of each student. This allows us to provide personalized support and ensure optimal conditions for the learning and development of each student.

Flexibility in learning: Distance learning with the use of modern technologies allows students to study at their own time and location, providing flexibility in organizing the learning process. This is particularly important for students who have other commitments, such as work or family.

Development of digital literacy skills: The use of modern technologies in distance learning contributes to the development of digital literacy skills among students. They gain experience working with various digital tools and resources, which is crucial for their future professional endeavors.

Feedback and assessment: Modern technologies enable teachers to provide more frequent and precise feedback to students. Automated assessment systems can also be employed, allowing for more objective evaluation of students’ knowledge and skills.

The advantages of a student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning contribute to more effective and personalized education, meeting students’ needs, and improving learning outcomes. Students engaged in a student-centered educational environment using modern technologies can develop skills in independent work, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. This helps them better grasp the learning material and apply it in practical contexts.

Due to the individualization of learning and flexibility in organizing the learning process, students can develop their strengths, overcome challenging moments, and achieve better results. Educational materials and assignments can be adapted to their needs and interests, promoting deeper understanding and retention of the material.

Moreover, a student-centered approach and modern technologies allow teachers to gain a more accurate understanding of each student’s progress and respond to their needs and difficulties in real-time. This contributes to more effective student support and enhances the quality of education.

Overall, the advantages of a student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning include increased motivation, personalized learning, flexibility, development of digital literacy skills, and improved feedback and assessment. These advantages contribute to higher-quality education and better achievement of students’ learning goals.

Restrictions

During the process of reviewing and addressing research questions, this study identified several limitations. The vast amount of published articles can lead to the omission of some relevant works, which is a common challenge in literature reviews. Significant effort is required when constructing search queries and determining keywords to ensure the success of the search process. The method of identifying keywords in this study relied on the “snowballing” process to uncover related reflections and keywords associated with the research topic. However, the limited timeframe may have resulted in the exclusion of certain articles or combinations of keywords, potentially leading to the omission of relevant information.

Furthermore, it should be noted that this study has its own limitations related to the selected criteria for inclusion. For example, it focused only on the analysis of journal articles in the English language. Consequently, works written in other languages or unpublished in journals may have been excluded from consideration.

Overall, despite the aforementioned limitations, this study provides important findings in the examined research area. To achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the topic and account for the limitations, it is recommended to consider these factors when planning and conducting future research.

Recommendation for further research

Our research has revealed the absence of a widely accepted conceptual framework for the components to consider when developing a student-centered approach and using modern technologies in distance learning. In the future, research could focus on exploring the components involved in various student-centered approach systems and modern distance learning technologies, and establishing common principles and terminology to create a unified approach and definition. It is important to note that this concept will evolve as our understanding of human psychology and the development of new technologies expand. Al-Ansi’s ( 2022 ) study examines the strengthening of student-centered learning through social e-learning and assessment. Rotar’s ( 2022 ) work proposes a framework for implementing student support in the online learning cycle. These studies contribute significantly to understanding the effectiveness and applicability of these approaches and technologies in distance learning, offering new ideas and recommendations for future research.

Additionally, the emphasis on developing higher-order thinking skills has not received sufficient attention in the existing literature. To address this gap, attention can be given to the development of higher-order thinking skills in the context of a student-centered learning environment. Future research can also focus on implementing these skills using a student-centered approach and modern technologies, including the potential application of virtual reality, while considering ethical and confidentiality issues.

Furthermore, conducting a detailed investigation to analyze existing platforms and systems of student-centered approaches and modern technologies in distance learning is necessary to determine which systems work best for different purposes and needs. This will help identify best practices and select the most effective learning systems.

This systematic literature review examined the impact of a student-centered approach and modern technologies on distance learning. The analysis of the presented studies allows for the following conclusions.

Firstly, a student-centered approach plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of distance learning. Considering students’ needs and preferences, as well as actively involving them in the learning process, contributes to increased motivation and better outcomes. The use of personalized approaches, adaptive technologies and tools, as well as feedback, helps create a learning environment tailored to each student’s individual needs.

Secondly, modern technologies play an important role in the development of distance learning. They provide access to educational resources, create interactive and collaborative environments, and enable the use of gamification and virtual reality in education. Tools such as electronic platforms, online communication, cloud technologies, and data analytics facilitate the effective delivery of materials, interaction between students and instructors, and adaptation of the educational process to changing needs.

Lastly, the student-centered approach and modern technologies in distance learning are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. The combination of these approaches allows for the creation of effective and innovative learning environments that promote active and interactive student engagement. They provide flexibility, accessibility, and personalization of learning, which are particularly relevant in the context of distance learning.

Overall, the systematic literature review allows for the conclusion that a student-centered approach and modern technologies play a significant role in enhancing the quality of distance learning. They contribute to active student engagement, personalization of the educational process, and the creation of an interactive learning environment. However, successful implementation of this approach requires consideration of the diversity of student needs and overcoming associated limitations. Therefore, further research and development in this field will contribute to the continued advancement of distance learning and the provision of quality education for students.

The student-centered approach includes the active involvement of students in the educational process, taking into account their needs and preferences, as well as the development of self-regulation and autonomy skills. It focuses on individualizing learning and supporting students in their educational journey. Modern technologies, in turn, provide a wide range of tools and resources for creating interactive and adaptive educational environments, ensuring accessibility and convenience in learning.

The use of modern technologies such as electronic platforms, virtual classrooms, multimedia materials, and communication tools enables the creation of an effective and flexible educational environment. They enrich learning by making it more interactive and engaging for students. They also facilitate personalized learning, allowing students to choose their own time and pace of learning.

However, for the full implementation of the student-centered approach and effective use of modern technologies in distance learning, it is necessary to consider limitations and challenges. This includes ensuring technology accessibility for all students, the quality of educational content, support and training for instructors in technology use, as well as organizational and managerial aspects.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Acknowledgements

The study was carried out within the framework of the project number AP19676457 by the Science Committee of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

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Kerimbayev, N., Umirzakova, Z., Shadiev, R. et al. A student-centered approach using modern technologies in distance learning: a systematic review of the literature. Smart Learn. Environ. 10 , 61 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40561-023-00280-8

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The use of immersive technologies in distance education: A systematic review

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This study aims to conduct a systematic review that includes studies on the use of immersive technologies in distance education. For this purpose, 132 studies detected by searching Web of Science, Eric, Taylor & Francis and Education Full Text (EBSCO) databases were examined. The studies were analysed using the content analysis method. As a result of the analyses, it was observed that the first study investigating the subject was conducted in 2002, and the number of related studies increased over the years. In addition, these studies were primarily conducted quantitatively, were mainly journal articles, and originated mostly from China and the USA. Moreover, the sample groups of these studies consisted mostly of university students. Therefore, they mainly used academic performance and motivation variables. Furthermore, these studies were conducted primarily in the science and medical education disciplines. When the studies were evaluated in terms of publication journals, it was determined that they were published mostly in “Education Science” and “Computers & Education” journals. They were also included in the proceedings published within the scope of various conferences. When the application platforms in the studies were examined, it was determined that the UNITY and ARTUTOR platforms were mostly used. The findings of the studies revealed that the increase in academic performance and motivation was one of the most reported advantages of such technologies. On the other hand, the problems caused while using these technologies and the internet were the most reported difficulties in the studies. Finally, the review presented suggestions for future studies.

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1 Introduction

Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. Additionally, the invention of Metaverse and the digital world has spurred educators to want to introduce virtual platforms in educational environments. In particular, virtual environments attract people’s attention owing to the opportunities they offer in distance education, where students and teachers interact only on the internet. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us that we must transform distance education. Rather than merely “surviving” through a wave of crises, we must learn how to adapt to the new normal (Nesenbergs et al., 2021 ). Although distance learning environments offer various advantages, such as flexibility, affordability and unlimited repetition (Rodrigues et al., 2014 ), they also have several disadvantages. Distance education provides students with a more flexible learning environment when compared to face-to-face education; however, it is difficult to ensure that students participate in distance courses at the same level as regular education (Coyne et al., 2018 ). Pozdnyakova and Pozdnyakov ( 2017 ) stated that these difficulties might be mainly associated with the fact that the student and instructor are not physically present in the same environment. At this point, immersive technologies such as VR and AR can help overcome these difficulties. In this sense, innovative technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) enable e-learning environments to have currently robust and flexible learning opportunities that offer learners enhanced dynamism and customisation opportunities (Alzahrani, 2020 ). Immersive technologies simulate the real world through the virtual world, allowing users to perceive virtual components as a part of the real world and have an immersive experience (Barrett et al., 2021 ; Wu et al., 2021 ). This study examined immersive technologies based on augmented and virtual reality technologies. In addition, in distance education, researchers have studied innovative instructional technologies and methods to increase the effectiveness of the teaching process. This has brought augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to the forefront.

Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are attracting people’s attention, mainly due to the commercial availability of new immersive VR/AR platforms and cost-effective standalone VR/AR platforms (Scavarelli et al., 2021 ). Although VR technology focuses on creating virtual environments by allowing the simulation of physical presence at a specific location in the real world, users can use this technology through several specialised devices that enable them to recreate hearing, seeing, hearing, and even smelling experiences (Guevara et al., 2020 ). In this sense, Lu et al. ( 2018 ) define VR technology as a computer-assisted simulation system that enables the formation of virtual environments to make real interactions. Also, VR technology can be used to overcome the difficulties of distance education (Liu et al., 2019 ). For example, in their study, Dunnagan and Gallardo-Williams ( 2020 ) designed a virtual laboratory to solve the spatial problems experienced due to distance education in organic chemistry laboratory courses during the COVID-19 pandemic and stated that the students were satisfied with this laboratory.

Moreover, in an experimental study conducted by Valenti et al. ( 2020 ) to examine how the use of VR technology affected the orientations of students in distance education programs, they found that students using VR technology were more knowledgeable about evaluating their programs compared to the controls. In addition, their anxiety levels about the program decreased slightly, and they were satisfied with VR technology. Thus, it can be asserted that achieving deep and meaningful learning in e-learning environments and maintaining students’ interests and motivation towards learning is more complicated when compared to face-to-face learning environments (Mystakidis et al., 2021 ). In addition, the high drop-out rates of students in e-learning environments are usually caused by students and their teachers logging in to the system from different locations, experiencing connection problems and lacking motivation (Paulus & Scherff, 2008 ). In this regard, virtual environments can offer opportunities for individuals to socialise and increase their motivation.

AR technology allows virtual objects to be viewed in real environments (Azuma et al., 2001 ). AR can be regarded as a virtual extension of people’s reality in a system owing to three major features: real-time interaction, combined reality, and virtuality. Thus, AR has become a frequently studied technology in educational studies. Le and Nguyen ( 2020 ) state that AR offers cost-effective, easy-to-use solutions for academic settings. In this sense, in the study conducted by Çetin and Türkan ( 2022 ) with 15 third-grade students, they examined how the AR-based applications they developed for the science course affected the achievement and attitudes of the students who were taking science courses in distance education and found that students’ achievement levels and attitudes changed positively through these applications. In another study, Altunpulluk et al. ( 2020 ) evaluated the use of AR technology in distance education by holding interviews with 14 field experts through the Delphi technique and stated that AR is an up-and-coming technology in the context of distance education and made positive contributions to disabled students as well as healthy students during distance education.

While VR and AR are similar in using many equivalent technologies, such as tracking sensors and displays, they represent two different approaches to blending real and virtual world realities (Scavarelli et al., 2021 ). While artificial environments do not interact with the real world in virtual reality-assisted environments, augmented reality-assisted applications offer users the opportunity to interact with both artificial and real worlds simultaneously (Carmigniani & Furht, 2011 ). VR is not a novel technology; however, due to advancements in visualisation and interaction possibilities, it has become more and more interesting for researchers, and head-mounted displays, especially HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, allow users to have a high level of immersion experience (Radianti et al., 2020 ).

Although there are systematic reviews examining the studies on the use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies in education, there is no comprehensive systematic review examining the studies on using these two technologies in the context of distance education. For instance, Tang et al. ( 2022 ) analysed 128 indexed articles on the Web of Science through a systematic review. The results show immersive technology is now widely used by physicians, medical students, and interns, primarily in surgery anatomy-related subjects. In addition, the authors discussed the evaluation methods and performance outcomes of immersive technology applications in medical education and practice. In their review, examining 54 studies on the state of immersive technology research in diverse settings, including education, marketing, business, and healthcare Suh and Prophet ( 2018 ) provide a comprehensive analysis of the existing literature on immersive technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. The authors identified four main themes in the literature related to immersive technologies: (1) the impact of immersive technologies on learning outcomes, (2) the use of immersive technologies in training and simulations, (3) the effects of immersive technologies on user experience and engagement, and (4) the ethical and social implications of immersive technologies. In another study examining 30 studies on the use of AR and VR in distance education in the context of higher education, Nesenbergs et al. ( 2021 ) stated that these studies mainly focused on laboratory or practical skills and yielded positive findings. The present systematic review differs from existing studies since it is not limited to only the context of higher education and examines the related studies in more detail. Also, this study is thought to benefit researchers working on the subject and practitioners in this field. Distance education is spreading worldwide, and schools, universities and especially open education faculties and universities should reconsider their education processes with technological advancements. In this sense, it can be asserted that a detailed examination of the studies on immersive technologies in distance education will be useful in describing the current situation and providing guidance for future predictions. In addition, the findings of this study will be useful in closing the gaps in the literature. In this regard, the studies on the use of immersive technologies in distance education were assessed in this systematic review. The research questions are as follows:

Research Question 1 (RQ1). What are the trends in immersive technologies in the context of distance education studies?

Research Question 2 (RQ2): What are the application platforms, environments for presenting materials, variables, and types of teaching preferred in using immersive technologies in distance education?

Research Question 3 (RQ3): What are the advantages and disadvantages of using immersive technologies in distance education?

In this study, the systematic literature review method was used. The systematic literature review includes the following stages; doing a comprehensive search for the studies published to create a solution to an application-related problem, evaluating the quality of the studies based on their inclusion and exclusion criteria, determining studies to be included in the review, and synthesising the findings of the studies included in the review (Kowalczyk & Truluck, 2013 ). The method followed is the main difference between systematic and literature reviews. In the former, articles are accessed in a detailed, organised way through various databases. On the other hand, literature reviews are often done less systematically, and articles are obtained from only a few databases (Robinson & Lowe, 2015 ).

2.1 Data collection

The searching process of this systematic review was completed on April 9, 2022, through Web of Science, ERIC, Taylor & Francis and Education Full Text EBSCO databases. These databases were preferred because they contain a significant number of studies on education. Table  1 shows the individual keywords and their combinations. Both keywords and search strings were used to search.

2.2 Data analysis

The articles/proceedings included in the study were analysed by one of the researchers, and it was aimed to increase the reliability of the analyses through checking by another researcher. This study used content analysis as the data analysis method, a form was prepared using Microsoft Word program, and sections were included to answer the research questions. These sections in the form included the number of the article/proceeding, type of the article/proceeding, database of the article/proceeding, name of the article/proceeding, publication venue of the article/proceeding, the publication year of the article/proceeding, method of the article/proceeding, the sample of the article/proceeding, education level of the sample, the country where the article/proceeding was conducted, the application platforms used in the article/proceeding, the type of material used, the discipline in which the study was conducted; the variables examined in the study, the effect level of augmented/virtual reality in distance education, the advantages of using augmented/virtual reality in distance education, the disadvantages of using augmented/virtual reality in distance education, and the type of teaching preferred in the studies. Once the studies were carefully read, this form was filled out for each study. Then, the data in the form was converted into codes, categories, and graphics using the Microsoft Excel program. Table  2 details the examinations made within the scope of the research questions during the analysis process. In the present systematic review, the data of the studies examined by the content analysis method were presented descriptively through figures and tables.

A total of 207 articles were accessed from four databases examined within the scope of the review (Fig. 1 ). After reviewing the titles and abstracts, 36 out of 207 articles were excluded because they were unrelated to AR, VR, and distance education. The remaining ten articles were excluded because they were not written in English. The remaining 161 articles were generally reviewed in terms of eligibility for the study, and it was determined that 29 of the articles did not comply with the scope of the review. Eight of these studies were not related to distance education, and the other ten studies did not focus on AR or VR applications in distance education; therefore, they were not included in the review. On the other hand, the remaining 11 articles were excluded from the consideration because they only contained descriptive information about AR or VR applications in distance education and were not scientific research studies. As a result, 132 studies were included.

figure 1

Diagram of the systematic review process (adapted from Liberati et al., 2009 )

First, two researchers coded twenty randomly selected articles separately to ensure inter-rater reliability. The Cohen’s Kappa coefficient was then calculated to be 0.79 using SPSS for two codes. Values between 0.61 and 0.80 represent the ideal agreement level between the researchers, according to Viera and Garrett ( 2005 ).

The articles/proceedings determined from the search on the Web of Science, ERIC, Taylor & Francis and Education Full Text EBSCO databases for the studies on augmented/virtual reality used in distance education were analysed. The findings of the analysis are presented below based on the research questions.

3.1 Distribution of the studies by years

Figure  2 shows the distribution of studies using immersive technologies in distance education over the years. When Fig.  2 was examined, it was observed that the first of the studies were conducted in 2002, and the number of studies increased rapidly in the following years. In addition, as seen in Fig. 2 , the articles and proceedings mainly belonged to 2021.

figure 2

Distribution of the studies by years

3.2 Distribution of the studies in terms of their research methods

Figure  3 shows the distribution of the methods used in the studies. Based on Fig.  3 , quantitative ( n  = 45) and system development ( n  = 38) methods were used primarily in the studies. The least used method in the studies was the literature review ( n  = 12).

figure 3

Distribution of the methods used in the studies

3.3 Distribution of the studies in terms of their type

Figure  4 shows the types of studies included in the review. Based on Fig.  4 , these studies were mostly journal articles ( n  = 92) and proceedings ( n  = 40).

figure 4

Distribution of the studies in terms of their type

3.4 Distribution of the studies in terms of the country

Figure  5 shows the distribution of the studies included in the review by the countries where they were conducted. When Fig.  5 was analysed, it was determined that these studies were conducted mostly in China ( n  = 16) and the USA ( n  = 15).

figure 5

Distribution of the studies in terms of the countries

3.5 Distribution of the studies in terms of the sample group

Figure  6 shows the distribution of the studies in terms of the sample group. Based on Fig.  6 , the studies were conducted mostly with higher education students ( n  = 51). The other sample groups preferred in the studies consisted of postgraduate students ( n  = 23) and university instructors ( n  = 18). The least preferred sample groups in the studies were health personnel ( n  = 8) and elementary students ( n  = 8).

figure 6

Distribution of the studies in terms of the sample group

3.6 Distribution of the studies in terms of the discipline

Table  3 shows the distribution of the studies according to their disciplines. Accordingly, the studies included in the study were conducted mostly in the fields of Science Education ( n  = 24), Medical Education ( n  = 20), and Foreign Language Teaching ( n  = 17).

3.7 Distribution of the studies in terms of journals/conference

Tables  4 and 5 show journals and conferences in which the related studies were published. As seen in Table  4 , 92 articles were published mostly in the journals “Education Sciences” ( n  = 6) and “Computers & Education” ( n  = 5), respectively.

In addition, when Table 5 was examined, it was determined that 40 proceedings were presented in various conference organisations. In this sense, it was observed that the studies were published mostly in the following conferences: “International Conference on Virtual Learning”, “International Conference Mobile Learning”, “IEEE Serious Games and Applications for Health”, “International Conference on Advances in Education and Management”, “International Conference on Computers in Education”, “International Conference on Computing and Applied Informatics”, “WSEAS International Conference on E-ACTIVITIES”, “International Conference on Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education”, and “International Technology, Education and Development Conference”.

3.8 Distribution of the studies in terms of application platform

Figure  7 shows the distribution of application platforms used in the studies. As seen in Fig. 7 , UNITY ( n  = 36) and ARTUTOR ( n  = 12) application platforms were mostly used in these studies.

figure 7

Distribution of the application platforms used in studies

3.9 Distribution of the environments where materials are presented

Figure  8 shows the environments in which materials are presented in these studies. As can be seen in Fig.  8 , it was observed that the environments in which the materials were presented in the studies were mostly computer (49%) and mobile (30%). In addition, some studies used computers and mobile (21%).

figure 8

Environments in which materials were presented in studies

3.10 Distribution of the studies in terms of the examined variables

Table  6 shows the distributions of the variables examined in the studies. As seen in Table 6 , it was determined that the variables examined in the studies were mostly achievement/performance ( n  = 48) and motivation ( n  = 37), and the least examined variables were cognitive affordances ( n  = 3) and recall ( n  = 2).

3.11 Distribution of the studies in terms of the type of teaching

Figure  9 shows the types of teaching preferred in the studies. As can be seen in Fig.  9 , it was determined that the preferred teaching types in the studies were mostly distance education (77%), MOOC (16%), and Open University (7%), respectively.

figure 9

Distribution of the variables examined in studies

3.12 Advantages of the immersive technologies

Table  7 reveals the advantages of the use of immersive technologies in distance education. It was determined that the most reported advantages in the studies were increasing learning achievement/performance ( n  = 48), boosting learners’ attention and motivation ( n  = 37), and enhancing the engagement of learners ( n  = 19), respectively.

3.13 Disadvantages of the immersive technologies

Table  8 reveals the disadvantages of using immersive technologies in distance education. It was determined that most of the studies mentioned technology/Internet-related problems ( n  = 12), the problem of adaptation to all platforms ( n  = 9), and disadvantages related to technological and pedagogical adaptation ( n  = 8).

4 Discussion

This study aims to systematically review the studies on the use of immersive technologies in distance education. In this sense, the general features, methodological features, and findings of the studies examined in the present systematic review were presented as the advantages and disadvantages of using immersive technologies in distance education. In this regard, it was observed that the first study on immersive technologies in distance education was conducted in 2002. When the studies conducted since 2002 were examined, it was determined that the number of related studies increased and were conducted mostly in 2021. This is associated with the increase in the number of studies and technological developments. Moreover, it can be asserted that studies on the Metaverse, which came to the fore after the COVID-19 pandemic, contributed to this increase. Additionally, the recent increase in studies due to the current conditions, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, indicates that technological innovation in education systems has come to the fore more than before (Rashid et al., 2021 ). In addition, the number of studies, especially after 2019, shows that these technologies are used more in various contexts in distance education, and educators’ interest in these technologies is increasing (Hincapie et al., 2021 ).

When the research methods used in the studies were examined, it was determined that quantitative and system development methods were most preferred. This finding can be associated with the interest in immersive technologies developing each day and the opportunity to reach many students in distance education. Additionally, since it is crucial to reach many people in quantitative research design and it is relatively easier to reach many people in distance education, the number of studies using this method may increase. Another reason for this finding on using quantitative methods in the studies stems from the researchers’ concern about objectively testing AR technology’s effects on students’ learning (Hrastinski & Keller, 2007 ).

It was determined that the studies examined in this systematic review consisted of journal articles more than conference proceedings. This finding was because journal articles are more permanent than conference proceedings and are cited more by researchers (Lisée et al., 2008 ). In addition, many researchers tend to publish extended versions of the studies they presented at conferences as journal articles (González-Albo & Bordons, 2011 ). On the other hand, when the distribution of the studies examined in this systematic review was analysed according to the countries where they were conducted, it was found that the studies were conducted mostly in China and the USA, respectively. This finding can be associated with the fact that these countries are pioneers in technological development. Moreover, this situation can be handled by making immersive technologies more prevalent among countries, especially in applied studies. Rashid et al. ( 2021 ) state that the research and development processes are the main foci for researchers in high-income economies (developed countries).

On the other hand, scientists in developing countries use technology invented by those in developed countries. Moreover, access to mobile devices, the internet, software, and immersive technology applications is growing rapidly, particularly in developing countries. As a result, the use of immersive technologies in educational environments and the number of studies investigating such technologies will likely increase (Akçayir & Akçayir, 2017 ).

When the sample groups included in the studies were examined, it was observed that the most preferred sample group was higher education students. This finding can be associated with university students receiving education through distance education at a higher rate. In addition, the fact that university students are easily accessible and their self-regulation skills are more advanced may be why the studies should include this sample group. The findings showed that the studies using immersive technologies were not limited to a specific discipline. Even though immersive technology requires a multidisciplinary nature, the studies in this review used this technology mostly in science and medical education. This may be because the complicated and high-cost application or experimental studies, which can attract the attention of students studying at higher education levels, can be easily supported with immersive technologies (Agbo et al., 2021 ). On the other hand, this finding can be explained by the fact that immersive technologies allow us to embody abstract concepts and simulate potentially dangerous situations (Cakiroglu, 2014 ; Klopfer & Squire, 2008 ). These immersive technologies’ features allow students receiving surgical education to conduct trials without harming the patient (Yoon et al., 2018 ).

It was determined that the examined studies were published mostly in “Education Sciences” and “Computers & Education” journals and included in different conferences’ proceedings. Therefore, this finding can be associated with these prominent and well-known journals. Furthermore, the studies revealed that Unity was mainly used as the application platform since it is open-source and easy to use.

Technology plays a vital role in immersive technologies (Wu et al., 2013 ); today, advances in PCs, mobile devices, hardware, and sophisticated head-mounted displays (HMD) give people more access to immersive technologies. On the other hand, other immersive technologies have different properties in terms of cost, accessibility and usability in educational environments. Desktop computers, for instance, can run AR apps, but they are not portable due to hardware restrictions (Chiang et al., 2014 ). Furthermore, mobile devices offer several benefits, including portability, promotion of high social interaction, and independent operation (Hwang et al., 2012 ). However, it can be thought that immersive technologies are generally presented in the classroom environment under the instructor’s control; therefore, they are used in the computer environment more.

It was observed that the studies mainly investigated academic performance, motivation, and attitude variables. The reason behind investigating these variables is that there are limited studies on immersive technologies in distance education. Therefore, these variables, especially academic performance, are essential in evaluating the effectiveness of technology in learning environments. Moreover, Arici et al. ( 2019 ), in their systematic review study on AR technologies, reported that the variables examined in the studies were mostly “learning/academic success”, “motivation”, and “attitude”, and these results support the findings of the present review. Therefore, it is logical that these factors are considered in conjunction with the examined studies because motivation and attitude significantly affect academic accomplishment (Lu & Liu, 2015 ; Wojciechowski & Cellary, 2013 ). Furthermore, as AR is a newly-emerging technology, it is essential to understand attitudes towards it. In addition, motivation and attitude play a significant role in determining one’s desire to use new technologies (Baydas & Goktas, 2016 ; Hsiao et al., 2012 ).

When the contexts of the studies included in the systematic review were examined, it was observed that they examined mostly distance education contexts but Open Universities and MOOCs, albeit less. The reason for this finding is that the concept of “distance education” is an inclusive term and practice. Furthermore, it was determined that the advantage of using immersive technologies in distance education was the increased academic performance and motivation in the studies. This finding is consistent with the results of studies in the literature (Nesenbergs et al., 2021 ; Rizov & Rizova, 2015 ). Furthermore, Mayer’s spatial and continuity principles can also explain the increased academic performance associated with using immersive technologies ( 2009 ). In this sense, it can be asserted that well-designed immersive environments can reduce students’ cognitive load and thus increase their performance. On the other hand, it was observed that the most mentioned disadvantage in studies on the use of immersive technologies in distance education was a technology/Internet-related problems. This finding can be associated with the fact that immersive technologies are high cost and there is not enough internet speed to access the environments developed with this technology, as stated in the literature (Ellaway et al., 2003 ; Saleem et al., 2017 ).

5 Conclusion and recommendations

Consequently, it was observed that studies investigating immersive technologies in the context of distance education were primarily published as journal articles, the number of related studies increased over the years, and the studies were mainly conducted using the quantitative method. In addition, using immersive technologies in distance education had many positive learning outcomes. Still, using these technologies in distance education also brought several disadvantages, especially technological/internet-related problems. In light of this study, the following recommendations for future studies can be presented:

It was observed that the studies examined in this review were conducted mostly using the quantitative method. Therefore, It is recommended to conduct further studies using the qualitative approach to examine students’ interactions with the environment in depth by using immersive technologies in the context of distance education.

It was determined that the studies mainly included university students. Therefore, it is recommended to analyse the effects of immersive technologies in distance education of high and secondary school students.

Investigating how immersive technologies in distance education affect attention, self-regulation and drop-out variables is recommended.

It is recommended to examine quantitatively the effect of immersive technologies on learning in distance education environments using the meta-analysis method.

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Turan, Z., Karabey, S.C. The use of immersive technologies in distance education: A systematic review. Educ Inf Technol 28 , 16041–16064 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-023-11849-8

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The research on the impact of distance learning on students’ mental health

Yinghua wang.

School of Basic Science, Zhengzhou University of Technology, Zhengzhou, China

Associated Data

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

The mental health of students learning online is a critical task for many countries around the globe. The research purpose was to analyse the factors affecting the quality of mental health of young individuals who learnt under conditions of not total lockdowns but adaptive quarantine restrictions. The research involved 186 volunteers from Zhengzhou University of Technology, 94 were first-year students, and 92 were fourth-year students. The experimental group involved first-year students, and the control group involved fourth-year students. An average age of the participants in the experimental group was 18.3 years, and in the control group, the average age was 22.4 years. The scholars conducted the research after four months of distance learning under the adaptive quarantine. The students could be involved in their usual entertainment activities and interpersonal communication outside the home. The Behavioural Health Measure, better known as BHM-20, was the core psychometric tool. The research finds that distance learning is less effective for first-year students than for fourth-year students because the former cannot effectively adapt and communicate in a new social environment, and develop trusting interpersonal relationships with fellow students and teachers. The research results coincide with other research on this issue and demonstrate a low degree of mental resilience during and after the pandemic. Previous research is not suitable for the analysis of the mental health of students under adaptive quarantine, including the freshmen, considered the most vulnerable group. The article will be useful for professionals interested in distance education in higher educational institutions, workers of socio-psychological services at universities or individuals involved in adapting curriculum materials for distance learning.

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a great impact on the mental health and well-being of individuals around the world. While some citizens successfully adapted to the reality of the pandemic and societal lockdowns, others have suffered from mental health disorders caused by a new infection (Serdakova et al., 2023 ).

Moreover, access to mental health services has been severely impeded which had an impact on the mental health of individuals and significantly increased the risk of suicide (Gunnell et al., 2020 ). Most countries on different continents have introduced immediate and drastic protective measures in the fight against the spread of infection, such as closed borders, forced isolation, quarantine restrictions, and distance learning. On the one hand, the virtualization of the educational environment and distance education have reduced inequalities in poor rural regions and ensured equitable access to the education of the population. On the other hand, social isolation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic required a unique educational environment but it has caused an increased number of psychological disorders around the world and mental illnesses, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, long-term episodes of counterproductive anxiety, and others (Clemente-Suárez et al., 2021 ). The unexpected shift from in-person to online learning has created a lot of problems for students, teachers, and administrators because many years distance learning has not been very popular in schools and universities (Brown & Carreno-Davidson, 2020 ). At the same time, protecting the mental health of students is vital for higher education because cognitive abilities directly depend on the psychological state of the student, which affects academic motivation, the level of aspirations, involvement in learning, and the emotional and volitional spheres.

As a stage of ontogenesis (human development), higher education may cause exacerbate mental health problems. Before the pandemic, research has primarily focused on student group relationships and campus living as the most common stress factors among students (Davis et al., 2021 ). The research finds that distance learning students report psychological problems more frequently than face-to-face learners, and it is important to analyse the factors that influence mental well-being in distance learning and help to focus on the problem identification related to the transformation of the face-to-face classroom to a virtual environment. The research is important for educators because the COVID-19 infection has not yet been completely defeated, and distance learning is already seen not only as a necessary measure but also as a way to simplify access to education around the world and in China in particular.

Literature review

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected, countries’ authorities have tried to find possible measures and ways to fight the pandemic around the world. Face-to-face and autonomous learning systems were replaced by distance learning platforms, and it became a significant factor of mental tension while adapting to new conditions in all areas of life and influenced by inadequate communication at the interpersonal level.

Distance or online learning is the method which helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it has a negative impact on the mental health of higher education students. The main problems experienced by students include anxiety, mild and severe stress, social media fatigue, and depression. At the same time, the symptoms are not always caused by mental health problems (Grigorkevich et al., 2022 ).

The literature analysis revealed the impact of distance learning on the mental health of students and showed that the most sensitive aspects included inadequate time management, the lack of a full-fledged adaptation strategy, the development of digital technologies in a new way, the burden to ensure the quality of new material learning, as well as concerns about the impossibility of funding educational activities under the COVID-19 conditions (Aditya & Ulya, 2021 ).

Some scholars have focused on fear as an emotional response of teachers and students to the distance learning model. The research confirmed that COVID-19 as a global social phenomenon increased the feeling of fear in different areas of life. First of all, it is the fear of being isolated from the family, the fear of academic failure, and the fear of losing social relationships (Al-Maroof et al., 2020 ). At the same time, modern online learning differs significantly from emergency distance learning, influenced by the mental tension decrease, in which addiction as a form of adaptation plays an important role. Under the pandemic restrictions and conditions, universities will adopt mixed or blended formats, since the problems of distance education are turned into educational opportunities. Distance learning allows easy access to education, development of different forms and methods of control, and adaptation and revision of inadequate university programmes (Adedoyin & Soykan, 2020 ).

The mental health of teachers is a part of the discussion devoted to the ecological environment of distance education. A sample of Pakistani and Malaysian teachers was used to analyse the parameters such as teacher self-efficacy and the quality of distance education. The research found that the mental well-being of teachers was a significant factor in ensuring academic success (Guoyan et al., 2021 ).

In Germany, scholars discuss the importance of psychological assistance provided by educational institutions during the crisis at the initial and final stages of distance learning. The attention of the German sociological and psychological services is on the well-being of students and burnout caused by nervous breakdown or inability to continue effective training under the COVID-19 restrictions.

In Germany, mental illness prevention strategies are introduced for first-year students who find it difficult to move into a new social environment despite the distance format. The transition to a new environment causes a high-stress level due to psychological tension, anxiety and increased learning requirements compared to previous school years.

An academic overload and a low level of knowledge among first-year students lead to learning problems, especially in specialised disciplines. Moreover, social and psychological aspects are important, such as mental exhaustion at the stage of admission, the development of new interpersonal relationships, and getting used to the university system of education and assessment (Schindler et al., 2021 ).

The factors mentioned above suggest that education during the first year of study based on the distance learning system can be more difficult for students in a situation when one problem is replaced by another. Cross-sectional research on the mental well-being of European students during the first wave of COVID-19 in May 2020 found that all university students (regardless of the year of study) had poorer mental health than before the pandemic. However, the mental health variable correlated with the belief (irrational belief) that the national government ensured effective management of the epidemic at the municipal level and reduced the risks of infection and negative macroeconomic outcomes (Allen et al., 2022 ).

The spread of the virus, long-term preventive measures and changes in daily routine have led to psychological problems such as anxiety, confusion, social deprivation, and depression. The chronic stress caused by the ongoing pandemic has a profound impact on a sharp and sustained decline of the psychological support that helped individuals cope with failure, emotional problems, disappointment, frustration, and preventing negative emotional experiences, namely resilience, optimism, psychological flexibility, and social relationships (Moroń et al., 2021 ). In China, the effectiveness of psychosocial support and the impact of COVID-19-related stressors on mental health have been investigated.

In Chinese realities, the concept of Psychosocial Support means family and social support in construct to Europe where it involves socio-psychological services.

Moreover, the assessment of the mental health of the respondents was based on the symptoms of depression and loneliness.

The scholars considered that the authorities should focus on the stress that followed the pandemic, as a serious threat to life and well-being, and the risk of infection with new and poorly researched diseases. However, the fear of infection as an independent variable was not correlated with either loneliness or depression, leading to heated debates about the impact of the pandemic on human mental health and well-being (Wang et al., 2022 ).

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to higher rates of mental disorders among the Chinese population. Many individuals have experienced increased resilience during the pandemic as a post-crisis change which had a positive impact not only on the population but on the healthcare system in the country (Zhang, 2022 ).

Restrictive measures under the quarantine have no impact on the cognitive performance of the population on different continents. However, complaints about cognitive decline increased significantly during the pandemic. High quality of life before the period of social isolation is the main factor that influences psychological disability, such as depression, anxiety, low-stress tolerance, ineffective self-regulation, and cognitive complaints (Nogueira et al., 2022 ). Reducing the negative consequences is important for young people in higher education during distance learning.

Problem identification

Only a limited number of publications covered the mental health of students during distance learning and discussed the problems faced by the post-COVID societies. This issue is of particular importance if the governments do not consider distance learning as a vital point and the only possible preventive measure against the spread of a deadly disease. The research purpose is to assess the psychological health of students learning online and investigate the factors that affect the mental health of students. Many scholars analyse the behaviour and psychological problems of schoolchildren, their parents and schoolteachers, paying less attention to the university environment.

This article considers age as the main factor to assess the opportunities and effectiveness of distance education for promoting the mental health of Chinese students in higher education. New experimental data will strengthen the debates about the opportunities promised by online education. After the weakening of quarantine measures, distance learning was no longer mandatory. This fact allowed the scholars to consider distance learning as an alternative form of education for the adult Chinese population who have already mastered social skills at earlier stages of ontogenesis and have maintained working, friendly, and romantic relationships with other people.

The scholars will complete the following tasks, such as identify the most appropriate psychometric tools to assess the quality of the student’s mental health learning remotely under weak isolation conditions; identify a sample size of first-year and fourth-year students to compare the mental health of those who entered the university and those who had experience learning online in a higher educational institution. Moreover, the research will compare the statistical data of two groups and test the null hypothesis. In this article, mental health is evaluated under conditions of adaptive quarantine, during which students have access to mobility, interpersonal communication outside their home, and quality leisure activities, which become possible due to mass vaccination and economic feasibility.

Methods and materials

The BHM-20 methodology can help to assess mental health and the psychotherapy progress used as the main diagnostic tool (Kopta et al., 2015 ). This technique is a 20-item questionnaire that evaluates three components of healthy behaviour: well-being (stress, life satisfaction, and motivation); psychological symptoms (depression, anxiety, panic disorder, mood changes caused by bipolar disorder, eating disorder, substance abuse, suicide intentions, and risk of violence); life activities (work and study, intimate relationships, social relationships, and enjoyment of life).

The full technique name is Behavioural Health Measure often used in a short form BHM. This technique can be used remotely without the direct participation of a psychologist because the respondent can insert answers using a computer or gadget, and the average time to complete the questionnaire is about three minutes. This tool is used in behavioural health clinics of primary health care (Bryan et al., 2014 ). The test consists of 20 statements rated by respondents where 0 points mean Strongly Disagree and 4 points represent Strong Agree .

The maximum total score of psychological well-being, without the suicidal scale, is 80 points, and the minimum score is 0 points, which means deep mental exhaustion. The scales do not have a separate gradation, and it means that the scale showed the overall score of mental health. Moreover, BHM-20 allows additional screening of suicidal thoughts and impulses, and it is considered six times better to identify suicidal intentions in primary care than the standard interview method. However, the research does not make use of this method, because it is secondary in importance to clinical psychological care.

In many cases, BHM-20 is used for primary psychological counselling at a certain number of higher education institutions, including Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, Indiana University, the University of Florida, and others, making this psychometric tool effective for data analysis. The tool is appropriate for adults aged 18 + with normal or high intelligence (Bryan et al., 2014 ). Express methods with a high level of reliability exist in modern methodology including BHQ-20 (Behavioural Health Questionnaire) with similar scales. The technique’s reliability was evaluated using four samples of different age groups, showing high results during the initial testing. Moreover, the high correlation between the scales in the BHQ-20 method indicated the presence of 1 key parameter of mental health. The analysis finds that the BHQ-20 is a reliable and valid mental health questionnaire, even though the number of questions is small (Kopta & Lowry, 2002 ).

Participants

The experimental group of first-year students included 94 individuals (38 females and 56 males) aged 18 to 19 years interested in this research. The control group of fourth-year students consisted of 92 individuals (48 females and 44 males) aged 21 to 23 years. All respondents had prior distance learning experience because the experiment was conducted during the second half of the academic year when both groups learnt for four months under adaptive quarantine. The distance learning experience differed across groups because for first-year students it was similar to their school experience while the control group actually continued professionalization, first under conditions of total quarantine, and then under conditions of adaptive quarantine.

Study design

This research was easy to organise and manage because it was conducted remotely and involved first-year and fourth-year volunteers of Zhengzhou University of Technology. The respondents received instructions in real time and proceeded to complete the electronic questionnaires on the Google platform at the agreed time on their personal computers. The preliminary briefing was conducted in the format of an online conference on ZOOM. The results were sent directly to the experimenter’s computer, entered into a common table, processed, and also remained anonymous. Although the participants logged in via e-mail in a Google form. In fact, the Google form presented to the respondents repeated the questions from BHM-20, greatly simplified the collection and processing of data. The well-structured methodology supported the high motivation level among the participants, immersed in the psycho-diagnostic process. The students were not informed about the research objective, which was the impact of distance learning on the mental health of young individuals. It helped the scholars to ensure the experiment’s purity and avoid bias. Moreover, all respondents could review the methodology results. The primary data processing did not take much time and the experimenter move quickly to statistical analysis.

Data analysis

Data processing was carried out using the SPSS Statistics 22 programme. To test the research hypothesis, the popular nonparametric Mann-Whitney U-test for independent samples was used. It helped to assess the statistical homogeneity of the two samples and ensured the significant differences.

Research limitations

The research had several limitations. First, the BHM-20 is a fast test without subscales. Second, the single-item suicide risk scale was not used in this experiment because this factor is usually used for the pre-responses analysis only. Third, the mental development of first-year and fourth-year students differs due to age differences and life experience, which can affect the level of mental health. Fourth, the BHM-20 method, considered an individualised one, does not have any gradations of Mental Health Normality , which limits the possibility of using this psychometric tool for large-scale research. Fifth, both samples involved volunteers only. The research did not capture the required social section of the population. Sixth, the BHM-20 was originally developed to assess the progress of individual psychotherapeutic performance. It heats the debates about the lack of standardised tests to assess the overall mental health of an individual. Tests without subscales would simplify the assessment of the impact of distance education on the mental health of Chinese youth.

The unprecedented nature of this pandemic has caused several risk factors and events not explored in this research. The overall physical health, physical training, domestic abuse, violence, and mental health problems experienced by individuals caused by the pandemic were not examined. All indicators used in this research are self-reported, so the scholars consider that some respondents may be apt to provide truthful or false answers, which therefore could influence negatively the results.

Ethical issues

This experiment was based on high ethical standards because both samples involved volunteers and their identity was kept anonymous. Some students received feedback from the researcher on an individual basis. The experiment goals were not disclosed to the participants. The students were informed about some goals without going into detail including information about voluntary mental health monitoring. The experimenter did not benefit from the research and all the financial expenses were covered by Zhengzhou University of Technology.

The research usefulness function was realised in full because distance learning under adaptive quarantine was introduced not only in China but in Europe. This is an important factor because the pandemic has not yet been completely defeated despite the mass vaccination programmes. The use of distance learning in higher education institutions, considering mental health, has been still questioned. The research finds drawbacks in policy development especially when distance learning is proposed for first-year students who integrate into a new social environment and acquire new skills and master knowledge.

This scientific discussion is of exceptional social significance, allowing academic institutions to balance live communication in the classroom and the mental health of students who experienced an academic overload. There was no risk to the physical and mental health of freshmen. Moreover, monitoring was used as a self-report measure and forced respondents to pay attention to their mental health and analyse their overall mental conditions over the past two weeks.

The results processing started with the analysis of the mean values for groups, which made it possible to produce high-quality primary research. At this stage, significant differences between the groups were manifested. Significant differences were found in the median of grouped data, and minimum and maximum values. So, the average value in the experimental group of first-year students was 35.14 points out of 80 possible points, while in the control group of fourth-year students this indicator was higher and reached 52.66 points. The data is available in Table  1 .

Primary Data Analysis

If the minimum value of the BHM index in the group of first-year students is 10 points, then in the control group it is already 33 points. The difference illustrates the high vulnerability level of former school students and a need for adaptation and effective use of psychological resources during the transition period, from one social environment to another. At the same time, the maximum intragroup values are similar. In the experimental group, the BHM score did not exceed 61 points, while in the control group, the highest value was 74 points out of 80 points. The standard deviation is lower in the group of fourth-year students, which suggests a higher homogeneity in the assessment of psychological well-being.

It proves the significance of the socio-psychological services at the stage of adaptation of first-year students so that the students can receive professional support and focus on the educational process. These strategies should be introduced into practice under adaptive quarantine. For example, one of the possible interventions is support groups organised once a week and conducted by a professional psychologist online.

The second stage of data processing involved a comparison of samples to identify the statistical differences. The classical Mann-Whitney U-test for independent samples was used. The analysis revealed that there were statistically significant differences between the groups. The data are available in Table  2 .

Secondary Statistical Analysis

The results reveal that the integrated value of BHM in the groups of first-year and fourth-year students is significantly different because an extremely low level of statistical error was detected, namely - p = 0.000 with admissible p = 0.05. This result suggests that the psychological well-being of fourth-year students is more stable compared to first-year students. The research considers that distance learning is not the only factor affecting the mental health of the respondents from the experimental group. The scholars assumed that psychological problems experienced by students were caused by many factors including adaptation processes to distance learning, personality crises and academic overload. The results showed that distance learning for first-year students was less desirable than for the fourth-year respondents. It is difficult for the socio-psychological service workers to support students and provide psychological help online, detect emotional burnout, apathy, and depressive episodes in a distance learning format. This research showed that age and the year of study significantly affected the mental health of students learning online.

Empirical research in South Africa illustrated that university professors failed to deliver adequate psychological support to isolated students. Students relied heavily on the support of both the administrative and academic staff when it came to the learning process. As a result, the high work stress felt by teachers was added to the high academic stress of students, which increased the risk of emotional burnout and nervous exhaustion in both groups (Poalses & Bezuidenhout, 2018 ).

Distance learning sabotage denial to accept a new academic environment increases the likelihood of mental disorders and reduces the cognitive abilities of schoolchildren whose parents are against this form of teaching (Davis et al., 2021 ). Distance learning under total lockdowns can cause a sense of learned helplessness with online learning technology, and worsen the quality of mental health of students of different age groups. The factors that may eliminate the negative consequences are academic motivation, reduced fatigue and a loss of interaction that cannot be restored with any online conferences (Garcia et al., 2021 ).

The U.S.-based University conducted a multi-thousand online survey involving undergraduate and graduate students based on standardised scales for assessing physical health and anxiety, as well as additional multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions about stressors and coping mechanisms under the pandemic restrictions. The results showed that half of the respondents experienced an increased level of depression and anxiety. At the same time, less than half of the participants indicated that they coped effectively with the stress factors caused by online learning and the threat of infection (Wang et al., 2020 ).

In Malaysia, the mental health of students during distance learning was evaluated using the DASS-21 methodology, designed to assess the depressive-anxiety stress factors. The questionnaire analysis showed that 30% of students in vocational schools experienced severe or extremely severe depression, 41% had anxiety, and 20% had chronic stress. At the same time, the biological sex of the respondent had a significant impact on anxiety. The research suggests investigating and combining distance learning with face-to-face education and practical work experience within the curriculum (Ahmad et al., 2022 ).

The results comparison of the mental state of students in full-time and distance learning was performed in Eurasia. This research assessed satisfaction with academic performance and the severity of depression and anxiety symptoms. The results showed that the prevalence of depressive symptoms and anxiety among students was higher during distance learning, compared with similar results obtained during full-time education. Moreover, the research results showed that the sudden transition from one learning environment to another was a major cause of chronic stress, which led to a high prevalence of depressive symptoms and anxiety among students (Lyubetsky et al., 2021 ).

In Italy, the impact of long-term online learning on the mental health of students was also researched. The second (control) experiment used the same sample and conducted the research over six months. The results reveal significant differences on scales such as students’ connection with other students and teachers, workspace organisation, and boredom between lessons. Moreover, the results show significant correlations between student academic development and the quality of distance learning, course adaptation, workspace arrangements and communication with other students and teachers, and between students’ emotions and communication with other students and teachers (Baltà-Salvador et al., 2021 ). The research finds that the social relations in distance learning can be an additional psychological resource for students that should not be underestimated.

Cross-cultural research based on a sample of thousands of students showed higher rates of depression, suicidal intentions and post-traumatic stress disorder compared to pre-pandemic levels and current rates in individuals belonging to ethnic minorities, which could also be considered as one of the factors of influence. Though the most common pandemic outcome is PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder ) , recorded in 62% of the respondents. However, neither age, nor personal history of mental illness, nor perceived social support was a significant risk factor of mental health (Torres et al., 2022 ).

The UK has developed a large-scale online questionnaire designed to assess mental health under the pandemic restrictions. The authors of the questionnaire considered socio-demographic variables, previous physical or mental illness, personal experience with COVID-19, information in the media, pandemic concerns, degree of personal traumatic experiences, PTSD caused by a pandemic outbreak, generalised anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, sleep quality, emotional deregulation, loneliness, social support, and the meaning of life (Armour et al., 2021 ). This questionnaire has not yet been standardised and adapted in other countries. However, all of the above factors affect the quality of mental health during and after the pandemic. There were no publications devoted to mental health under adaptive quarantine, which proved the need to start a debate on the key theoretical and empirical questions.

This article investigated the main factors that affected the mental health of students. The theory of intelligence helps to illustrate that the pandemic and distance education increase the risk of clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, PTSD, apathy, learned helplessness, burnout, nervous breakdown, and so on. Furthermore, non-university students more often report mental health problems than those who learn academic disciplines in a traditional format. The results prove that therapeutic and individualistic approaches to mental health cannot be the only methods used to improve students’ mental well-being.

The scholars have to investigate inclusive curriculum design and assessment methods. Moreover, educational institutions should introduce and teach advanced telecommuting skills, implement educational systems and processes that do not cause stress, and design learning environments based on professional feedback to maintain a balance between quality education and the student’s mental health. The research proposed the holistic approach to introduce mental health practices during distance learning that can influence positively the mental well-being of students. At an empirical level, the present research investigates distance learning opportunities during adaptive quarantine and finds that it is less effective for first-year students who have just entered the university. The problems that may arise are caused by the complicated adaptation process which requires a significant amount of effort, the difficulties in developing new social relations with teachers and fellow students, and academic overload, especially in learning specialised disciplines.

The experiment shows that first-year students are a more vulnerable group than fourth-year students who have learnt online at the university and feel much more competent when it comes to university education. In addition, the research finds that first-year students need high-quality psychological support being at risk with a reduced tolerance for uncertainty. The empirical research finds that age and the year of study affect the mental well-being of students. The scholars suggest that under conditions of adaptive quarantine, it is necessary to pay attention to psychological screening and psychological interventions to prevent depressive episodes, apathy, low academic motivation, low-stress resistance, ineffective self-regulation, and so on. The scientific value of the research is that it causes a worldwide discussion about the safety of distance education and its impact on the mental health of university students.

Moreover, some risks for mental health may occur when young individuals learn remotely. However, the research proves that the psychological states of undergraduate students are more stable and the students are better prepared for distance learning. This is the main practical value of the article to the university administration and teachers. This research manifests that the quality of socio-psychological services in universities is a priority for the administration, and special strategies should be developed to prevent mental disorders among students and maintain an effective and advantageous learning environment for all parties involved in the education process.

No funding was received to assist with the preparation of this manuscript.

Data availability

Declarations.

There are no competing interests to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

The study was conducted in accordance with the ethical principles approved by the Ethics Committee of Zhengzhou University of Technology.

All participants gave their written informed consent.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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Original research article, research into improved distance learning using vr technology.

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  • 1 Art College of Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
  • 2 Guangzhou Nidu Information Technology Co., Ltd., Guangzhou, China
  • 3 School of Fine Art, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China

Practical skill-based education requires exemplary face-to-face operational teaching, and VR can enhance online distance learning, facilitating an alternative form of “face-to-face” teaching, which results in better teacher–student communication and learner self-efficacy. It also constitutes as a useful substitute for in-person teaching, and it also has a positive impact on learning effectiveness. In this study, a mixed-method approach was used, which utilized the following methodologies: a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures, document collection, case and comparative analysis, and VR teaching that utilizes “You, Calligrapher” as a survey tool. Teachers and students of art were selected, who then used an educational VR-based calligraphy game application for teaching activities. We investigated the impact of virtual time, space, and technical availability on learners’ understanding, imagination, and interactivity in VR education, and then we evaluated the positive impact via learner feedback. Research tools that we utilized consist of comprehension, imagination, and how feedback motivation scales with effective learning; we have also used Chinese calligraphy performance tests. The SPSS statistical analysis software was used for related statistical processing, and α was set to 0.05. The results of this study indicated that Chinese calligraphy studies in VR time and space affect students’ understanding and imagination but not their operational abilities. According to our research, a fundamental difference between traditional and modern teaching methods is a shift toward the use of VR (and the internet) in education. Therefore, the focus of this study is on understanding the impact on practical skills during distance learning and investing the impacts in order to form an effective approach to the use of VR in education.

1 Introduction

With the development of digital media technology, educational contexts continue to push the boundaries of what “can” be done: what can be virtualized, monitored in real time, and simulated ( Hu et al., 2021 ). The space for education and technical means of communication, and these interactions in operational skills education have been redefined. Given the influence of the current COVID-19 pandemic in particular, there is now an even greater demand for online distance education, whereby students and teachers can conduct educational learning without having to leave their homes. However, the limitations of online education have been a subject of criticism as practical courses cannot be taught in the usual way, and with distance learning, students may have to rely more on their imagination in certain aspects of the process. They cannot obtain in-person guidance from teachers, and teachers cannot obtain real-time feedback from students. The quality of knowledge transferred may also be limited by camera angles, screen size, and clarity. The conveying of information will be affected by abstract features of language and by feedback factors (which may not be timely), impinging on learners’ ability to obtain key knowledge and grasp key concepts. This therefore highlights the importance of VR education, which can help teachers and students to overcome time and space restrictions, and conduct remote “face-to-face” communication; teachers can borrow the artificial intelligence-based generative adversarial network (GAN) technology to translate semantics for real-time dynamic images, practical courses can be “hands-on,” and practical exercises can be conducted to obtain teacher guidance and feedback ( Huang G et al., 2019 ; Huang Y. C et al., 2019 ).

Virtual reality (VR) technology consists of a fusion of multichannel forms of information, with the ability to create interactive, three-dimensional dynamic scenes and behavioral simulations, and it enables users to enjoy immersive experiences and benefit from other advantages, such as engaging at a higher cognitive level, experiencing the richness of a highly realistic simulation, and experiencing a diverse range of sensory stimuli ( He et al., 2019 ). VR can simulate a real panoramic experimental environment and dynamic simulation of experimental teaching methods and conditions, and it can also facilitate behavior-based interactions, thus having great potential for enhancing learners’ cognitive and practical skills (Burdea et al., 2003).

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has gradually matured in terms of image translation and dynamic image generation. It can also show important changes in voice visualization, which is self-evident for the role of education. 6DOF free-angle video collection technology can record dynamic 3-D stereo data in real time; as a result, it has great potential in operational skills training. Moreover, the lightweight, low cost, and versatility of motion-capture technology have extended the limits of people’s participation in the virtual world and have made it impressively realistic. Cloud computing and the popularization of 5G technology have enabled distance education to become more real time, and with the application of VR technology, realistic distance learning has become more and more of a reality.

Therefore, when the combination of VR technology, artificial intelligence, and other related technologies is compared with the traditional education method, it presents the unique characteristics of non-face-to-face physical space, non-linear time, 360-degree real-time interaction, and artificial intelligence-based personalized teaching, replacing traditional in-person teaching and focusing on teaching and learning. Typically, teachers pass on knowledge via language and the written word ( Kyrlitsias et al., 2020 ). During the listening process, students process information through their auditory organs, developing their own understanding of what they have been taught based on their very own interpretation of the knowledge they were taught. When they encounter problems that they do not understand, students can engage in language interaction, communicating with one another until a better level of understanding is achieved, and completing the teaching and learning process at the same time and in the same space as the teacher. However, because of the subjective nature of language and writing, there is often a discrepancy between what students understand and the knowledge taught by teachers during the communication. Teachers are required to demonstrate key aspects of learning or to use visual aids to assist teaching so that students can understand and remember. This is especially the case with skill-based teaching, such as Chinese calligraphy. Students are generally required to demonstrate their proficiency and articulate their understanding face to face, and students need teachers’ guidance and constructive feedback when practicing. In traditional education, text, images, and videos can help students enhance their understanding of knowledge, but for operational teaching, intuitive teaching assistance cannot be obtained through abstract symbols (text, images, and videos).

The purpose of this study is to use the effectiveness of VR to teach Chinese books and paintings, analyze if VR is able to enable distance education, and explore the impacts of VR practical teaching. The advent of the VR era will change education further. It can enable students to communicate with teachers “face to face” in teaching scenarios in remote and unusual situations, and it can help students overcome learning obstacles via the Internet. It is also possible to reproduce abstract knowledge in real time in virtual contexts without being subjected to physical constraints or screen display limitations. VR can help teachers and apprentices practice skills, with 360-degree interactive observations and learning, and it can simulate the teaching methods of real-world technology majors ( Chen and Deng, 2015 ).

This study started with the three characteristics of space–time (derived from immersion, focusing on the teachers and students in different spaces teaching in the same virtual environment), imagination, and interactive VR ( Chen et al., 2019a ; Lee et al., 2020 ). We investigated the effect of VR technology and artificial intelligence technology on VR-based skills distance learning and the effectiveness of learning, using the “You, Calligrapher” VR-based painting application as an experimental tool, utilizing a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The results of the study were then used to consider the implications for other applications in VR education.

The theoretical model of this study contains three characteristics of VR: immersion (virtual time and space) (TS), imagination (IM), and interactivity (IN). Impact on the learning effect (LE) of distance practical teaching; and the direct impact of the technical availability (TA) factor on the learning effect (LE) of distance practical teaching; then the technical availability has improved understanding of students (SC),-as shown in Figure 1 .

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FIGURE 1 . Theoretical model of VR education methods to improve learning effectiveness.

Time and space are the rules of the real world that differ from the virtual world. Therefore, the space–time factors of the virtual world will result in changes to human lifestyle and behavior, break through the constraints of time and space, and be more conducive to promoting the realism and enhancing the immersion of distance education (TS to LE). The teaching of the real world has undergone formal changes in the virtual world through language communication, supplemented by visualized images, text, and other symbolic forms ( Setti and Csapo, 2021 ). The visual display of virtual spaces will not be restricted by physical screens. As a result, it is easier to spread information; realize the three-dimensional integration of information, symbolic imaging, and dynamic characteristics; and change the understanding of learners (IM to LE). Practical teaching in the real world relies more on physical operational teaching, emphasizing one-on-one or one-to-many same-physical space teaching. However, the virtual space can achieve long-range synchronized operation teaching without physical materialization so that learners can observe the operation process of the lecturer with multiple angles and perspectives without physical objects and conduct synchronous operation exercises to obtain real-time feedback from teachers’ guidance (IN to LE).

Technical availability is the decisive factor for the popularization of virtual reality. The continuous interactive update of technologies such as artificial intelligence, VR/AR, big data, 5G, cloud service, and marginal computing has prompted virtual reality distance education to become more simulated. As a result, human-to-human connectivity in the virtual world is more and more real time, diverse, and convenient, creating a seamless connection between the virtual world and the real world, and achieving more efficient teaching practices than that in the real world (TA to LE). Artificial intelligence teaching can also simultaneously translate teaching knowledge, transform voice information into visualized information in an instant, and then obtain the learner’s knowledge mastery data through big data, giving learners more modest learning information quantities and methods (TA to SC). Finally, judging the improvements of the learners’ learning effect, there is a positive impact on the learning efficiency, and it might also have a negative impact on the learners’ independent learning motivation; so this article will conduct research and exploration (SC to LE).

2 Literature Review

2.1 the status of vr technology applied to practical teaching.

Virtual activities can help students master practical skills and can promote the development of students’ cognitive skills through simulations of key knowledge and processes relevant to certain fields in the real world, or they can be substituted for real environments to a certain extent ( Liu and Wang, 2011 ) (Liou et al., 2018). With the combination of VR technology, VR equipment, and three-dimensional interactive virtual digital resources, we can provide students with an integrated virtual learning environment to help them improve their academic achievement and learning motivation (Bogusevschi et al., 2020). It taught junior high-school students the concept of the water cycle and precipitation formation by combining VR technology and VR laboratories to enhance their interest in physical learning. As VR technology becomes ever more sophisticated, with the characteristics of virtual reality immersion, interactivity, and promotion of students’ powers of imagination, researchers will try to increase the effectiveness of students’ learning, ensuring safety and maximizing interest levels through game-based learning. However, few scholars have been able to effectively monitor the actual effectiveness of students’ learning in the case of current online teaching and students’ learning outcomes cannot be fed back; the time and space of teaching and learning are not uniform, and the interactive effect of online education is not ideal ( Chiang, 2021 ). Although online education can incorporate the most advanced technology in the professional field, it is not intuitive enough to reach the caliber required for it to be as effective as education in the real world, nor can it participate in activities or propose a solution to ensure students’ complete satisfaction.

2.2 The Impact of VR Technology on Learning Effectiveness

The study of the impact of VR technology on learning effectiveness is divided into two categories. One particularly useful approach is that of Wang (2020) , who has proposed a method for improving reading of educational publications in VR environment through dual construction of content systems and interactive situations. Gao Haibo (2019) believed that VR teaching applications can enable practitioners to break free from the narrow view of traditional teaching that only focuses on knowledge transfer and change passive learning into active exploration, thereby enhancing learners’ immersive experience and participation in learning ( He. et al., 2019 ). They assert that gaming-based learning and the use of VR in education can enhance learners’ motivation. Experimental data confirm that game-based VR education can effectively enhance the learning experience and improve teaching quality ( Liu et al., 2019 ). They argue that artificial intelligence, VR, and AR technology can achieve better personalized teaching, relying on Internet-based technology to change educational visualization from a flat world to one that is more three-dimensional and clearer. Sitterding (2019) added VR and artificial intelligence methods to the training of new nurses in American hospitals. In experiments comparing traditional training and VR training, it was found that VR training may be more effective than traditional teaching methods ( Horváth et al., 2021 , Hsiao et al., 2021 ).

On the other hand, it has been argued that the application of VR technology to education will bring a higher cognitive load and will not significantly promote the learning effect. For example, Parong et al. (2018) found that the cornerstone learning effect for learners using PowerPoint (PPT) was clearly better than that for learners using VR. The reason for this may be related to the immersive nature of the VR environment, which can produce greater external cognitive loads for learners, manifested in a low level of cognitive participation (reflected in learners’ brainwave electrocardiograms) and poor migration test results. Makransky et al. (2017) used EEG equipment to track the brainwave status of desktop VR and headset-wearing VR learners, and found that learners were overloaded for nearly half of the time during the learning process, which may suggest that VR technology cannot improve the learning effect. Few scholars have conducted analysis of experimental data of the impact of VR on students’ learning effectiveness from the perspective of the three characteristics of the VR technology described earlier, and then later used mature VR application software to analyze data relating to the experiences of users ( Parong and Mayer, 2018 ; Paul and Jefferson, 2019) .

2.3 The Impact of AI Technology Applications on Student Learning

An algorithm framework for AI GAN semantic translation generational learning technology was developed with the goal of facilitating unsupervised learning. This technology can be used for mutual conversion of texts and images in VR education, translation of voice images, image over-resolution, and dynamic image generation, and it can enable other machines to learn independently ( Ninaus and Nebel, 2012 ). GAN is inspired by the two-person zero-sum game theory ( Huang et al., 2012 ). Its unique adversarial training ideas can generate high-quality samples with more powerful learning and expression characteristics than traditional machine learning algorithms ( Liang et al., 2013 ). The learning-generation process can help learners to select important information (images, text, sound, etc.) and organize this into new, continuous psychological representations in their working memory; finally, the new knowledge is integrated with existing knowledge and stored in long-term memory (Mayer, 2009). Few scholars have carried out relevant research on improving learners’ understanding in a virtual environment from the dynamic translation of artificial intelligence semantics.

2.4 Literature Summary

In general, previous studies have actively explored and studied VR technology and AI technology in practical educational contexts from multiple angles, and improvements in students’ learning and personalized education are particularly prominent. It has also been pointed out that current VR and AI technology are not yet mature, and there are many deficiencies.

Scholars often discuss the effectiveness of VR education from the perspectives of simulation safety of VR teaching and increased interest in games, from the three characteristics of VR: immersion (TS), imagination (IM), and interactivity (IN), as well as artificial intelligence. From a technical perspective, however, there are few scholars analyzing the effects of distance education and traditional online education, practical teaching in the VR environment, and the actual learning effect (LE) produced by the technical availability (TA) of artificial intelligence and VR technology on the understanding of students’ acceptance of knowledge (SC).

In summary, this study will look at the development of virtual reality practical teaching and explore the impact VR technology and AI technology have on teaching and learning. Can remote face-to-face communication in VR time and space be achieved, and can teachers obtain student feedback in real time? When students have the opportunity to view teachers’ demonstrations interactively in the VR environment, will it improve their learning effect on interactive operation exercises, and can dynamic knowledge translation be seen to occur?

3 Research Methods

3.1 research assumptions and framework.

VR technology has the three characteristics of immersion, imagination, and interaction. A VR-based immersive learning experience provides learners with an environment in which problems can be solved and knowledge can be acquired, and it can enable teachers and students in remote and foreign places to enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interaction at the same time (of particular relevance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic). Therefore, in VR education, it will have a positive impact on the learning effect of learners. The artificial intelligence presentation of VR education will make a greater contribution to the performance of technical availability. Virtual reality technology has the three characteristics: imagination (IM), interactivity (IN), and immersion (virtual time and space) (TS). VR education provides learners with an environment to solve problems and acquire knowledge through immersive learning experience. Imagination and interactivity have a positive effect on learning effect (LE). The direct impact of the technical availability (TA) factor was generated by artificial intelligence and VR technology on the learning effect (LE) of remote practical teaching. Virtual real-life artificial intelligence will help the content of the lecturer to be translated from language to text, image translation, and image generation, and three-dimensional dynamic information generation transformation will have a positive impact on students’ ability to understand (SC). Comprehension (SC) is the basic ability that affects the effectiveness of learning (LE), the basic ability of students to develop critical thinking and innovation skills, and an important ability that affects the long-term development of students ( Chen et al., 2015 ).

It can be seen that space–time, technical availability, imagination, comprehension, and interactivity are crucial factors in students’ learning. Therefore, this study adopted a theoretical model to explain the structural approach, and this enabled us to investigate the effectiveness of skill-based teaching using VR spatiotemporal characteristics, as shown in Figure 2 .

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FIGURE 2 . Diagram of hypothetical model used in the study.

In order to further explore the relationship between various influencing factors, nine possible relationships were hypothesized around these factors, and the nine assumptions in the theoretical model were as follows:

People can obtain more intuitive comprehension in VR time and space than in traditional imaging space ( Feng 2006 ). Thus, hypothesis 1 (H1) is suggested: VR time and space have a positive impact on students’ understanding.

Learning without understanding is not real learning, and students’ level of understanding will be reflected in learning outcomes. Therefore, evaluations of learning effects are essentially judgments about students’ level of understanding ( Chen et al., 2015 ). Hence, hypothesis 2 (H2) is proposed: Students’ understanding has a positive impact on learning effectiveness.

Teachers and students in VR time and space can access the same virtual teaching situation, with students receiving a valid and realistic (substitutive) learning experience (Wu, 2017). A well-designed VR program will integrate the teaching content and strategies into the application context. It is necessary to consider VR space–time characteristics and link teachers’ demonstration operations with learners’ practice. VR space–time energy stimulates the human brain’s ability to think imaginatively ( Huang et al., 2010 ). Learners are more likely to learn abstract concepts in the VR space–time environment ( He et al., 2019 ). As a result, hypothesis 3 (H3) is formed: VR time and space have a positive impact on students’ ability to use their imagination when learning.

Thinking power is the motor of intelligence. The power of thinking is weak. It directly affects the rationality and style of language, and language affects the intellectual development of learning and the geological formation of good ideas (Wei, 2017). Accordingly, hypothesis 4 (H4) is proposed: Students’ imagination has a positive effect on learning.

McLuhan believes that the extension of human consciousness is constantly designed by electrons as a holistic world environment ( Chen et al., 2015 ). A well-designed VR application product integrates the teaching content and strategies into the application scene. It is necessary to consider the VR space–time characteristics and to link the demonstration operation of the lecturer with the practice of the learner. Subsequently, hypothesis 5 (H5) is proposed: VR time and space have a positive effect on interactivity.

VR technology can track learners’ physical movements, activate time in the virtual world, and give learners a sensory experience that is so vivid and realistic as to seem physically real, akin to real-world activities but in a VR environment ( He et al., 2019 ). Thus, hypothesis 6 (H6) is formed: Technology availability has a positive impact on VR interactivity.

Using VR technology, behavioral data relating to lecturers and learners via peripheral equipment (such as handles, helmets, and motion captures), interactive sensory means (such as audiovisual devices), and through forms of informational interaction between learners and VR education can be obtained, in order to promote learning. Interactive feedback helps learners construct meaningful knowledge ( Huang et al., 2010 ). Hence, hypothesis 7 (H7) is suggested: The interactivity of VR has a positive impact on learning.

Virtual reality AI can help lecturers’ language translation, image translation, image generation, and 3-D dynamic information generation, which will have a positive impact on students’ ability to understand abstract information, enabling them to transform this into knowledge while enhancing interest levels and learning effects ( Li et al., 2017 ). As a result, hypothesis 8 (H8) is proposed: Technology availability has a positive impact on learners’ understanding.

With AI technology, voice or text can be converted into multiple languages, which can be displayed through images, 3-D static and dynamic scenes, or objects. With VR technology, learners can use external equipment such as helmets, handles, headphones, microphones, and Wi-Fi in different scenarios to interact, collaborate, and learn. VR technology can display things in multiple ways, helping learners to better understand virtual scenarios, boost their imagination, and reveal the essential characteristics of things ( Li et al., 2017 ). Hence, hypothesis 9 (H9) is suggested: The availability of technology has a positive impact on learners’ imagination.

3.2 VR Application Design and Realization

In this study, Oculus Quest2 VR equipment was used, a Chinese calligraphy and painting teaching application, and a virtual calligraphy painting application was developed using Unity 3D. “You, Calligrapher” is an educational application that integrates teaching and practice within a virtual environment,-as shown in Figure 3 . This application allows lecturers to demonstrate the teaching content in simulated ancient study rooms, emulating real-life teaching in the real world. Learners can experience an (simulated) in-person viewing process, like with traditional teaching (without being limited by position), observe the instructor’s demonstration from any angle, and repeat the viewing at any point in time. Learners can also use helmets to access the virtual environment and experience contexts with traditional Chinese cultural characteristics, such as ancient calligraphy and Zen rooms. Learners use a handle to simulate an ink brush during the writing and painting process.

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FIGURE 3 . “You, Calligrapher” VR application.

The “You, Calligrapher” software enables calligraphy learners to use distance learning methods and to practice in a virtual environment. There are two ways to watch video teaching materials, and users have a 360-degree view of the teaching content. Teaching demonstrations and activities are completed simultaneously, and the AI system scores learners’ performance. The simulation process has three components: teaching, practice, and application. Learners complete the process of practicing writing during the game session.

The goal of the application is to train students to learn and improve their skills in calligraphy and Chinese painting techniques, with technical modeling and learning interaction. Learners’ progress records are stored in real time in the database, and ( via a manual intelligence algorithm evaluation) they receive instructional learning feedback, content frames, and feedback on the learning process.

The “You, Calligrapher” learning games include three components: teaching demonstrations, interactive practice, and breaking through the game level. Learners use voice and video teaching by “virtual teachers” in the game and do practice tasks, with a clear 360-degree view, enabling them to copy the teachers simultaneously. The second step involves learners using a game handle to simulate a brush, to obtain a realistic interactive writing experience and practice Chinese painting. They can also select relevant text or inscriptions from the database to copy. The third step is to complete the checkpoint task objectives (based on the present game) breaking through the game level. The AI algorithm evaluates feedback based on the learner’s writing results and completes the process.

3.3 Participants

The study participants were educated to a higher level and were selected from students at the College of Art of Jinan University. This college runs a degree course on Chinese calligraphy and painting appreciation, and has an excellent reputation throughout the country. The study sample comprises 160 teachers and students of this subject (not just limited to teachers and students of calligraphy). The participants used the VR equipment at various times to experience the “You, Calligrapher” software (at least 30 min of painting study). An electronic questionnaire was drawn up and distributed to the research subjects, for them to report on their experience of using the VR equipment/software, using real-time communication tools such as micro credit and the QQ social application. In total, 160 questionnaires were distributed, and 152 valid questionnaires were recovered (a response rate of 95%).

3.4 Measurement Tools

Learning effectiveness was assessed by the test questions, jointly prepared by the teacher and the researcher, including a “knowledge point understanding level” test and “technical ability” test. Participants took the tests as soon as they had finished using the application. In total, 152 effective test results were collected in this study. The “Education Questionnaire on the Effectiveness of Improving Practical Skills Teaching” included six dimensions: VR time and space, technical availability, interactivity, imagination, comprehension, and learning effects. Each dimension consisted of five questions (30 questions in total). The questionnaire was based on Huang et al.’s (2010) study. The original questionnaire used the Likert seven-point scale, which contains 16 topics. As this study was specifically focused on technical objectivity, a five-point Likert scale was used (1: “completely disagree,” 2: “uncertain,” 3: “not sure,” 4: “agree,” and 5: “fully agree”). Taking into account the particularity of distance learning practice technical courses, the content of three dimensions (VR time and space, technical availability, and comprehension) was replaced, -as shown in Table 1 .

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TABLE 1 . Participants’ sociodemographic features [sample demographics ( N = 152)].

3.5 Experimental Steps

The first step entailed participants listening to an explanation and watching a demonstration (before the commencement of the experiment) to ensure that they understood the methods and precautions involved with the use of Oculus Quest2 and PICO NEO3, and that they understood the “You, Calligrapher” application. Participants could only proceed to the VR experience stage after the introduction by the research team. In the second step, the participants started the VR application, checked the position, adjusted the equipment to ensure that it was comfortable (e.g., the helmet and height of the virtual desktop), and started the experience.

With this application, the user needed to complete the teaching steps and freely write 16 Chinese characters. The game provided teaching feedback, and the same 16 Chinese characters could then be written again in three stages, with a completion time of 15–20 min. In the third step, the user was presented with the initial set of calligraphy results and the second set of results (after training and completing the VR experience), and then completed the questionnaire. In the fourth step, three professional teachers were asked to compare the calligraphy test results relating to the 16 Chinese characters, and a judgment was made as to the learning effect and the learning experience. The fifth step entailed data collection. IBM SPSS was used to describe participants’ opinions of the VR application experience/environment to perform descriptive statistical analysis and to analyze the impact of understanding, imagination, and interactivity on learning (through linear regression analysis). IBM SPSS was also used to verify the structural equations, and for factor analysis and path analysis.

4 Results Analysis

4.1 credit effectiveness analysis.

All participants completed the questionnaire online via the Internet, and 152 valid questionnaires were recovered. After revision, experts were invited to revise and conduct a letter-effectiveness analysis. In the letter-level analysis of the six variables, the Cronbach α coefficient value was found to be greater than 0.6, thus indicating that the quality of the letter analysis was acceptable ( Table 2 ). The Keyser–Meyer–Olkin (KMO) value was greater than 0.7 (0.710), indicating that the effect was good, and the common value was greater than 0.4. The absolute value of the factor load coefficient of the variable corresponding to each factor was greater than 0.4, and the vast majority of these were greater than 0.6, indicating that the variable and the factor had a better correspondence ( Table 3 ).

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TABLE 2 . Cronbach credit analysis.

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TABLE 3 . Results of effectiveness analysis.

4.2 Results Analysis

4.2.1 descriptive analysis of variables based on vr time and space in the teaching application.

The descriptive statistics on learners’ attitudes toward the teaching application in terms of VR time and space were given in relation to six dimensions: VR time and space, technical visibility, imagination, understanding, interactivity, and the learning effect. The statistical results are listed in Table 4 . Learners’ overall attitude toward the VR environment was high (mean = 4.08). From the perspective of the cognitive level of each dimension, from high to low, the order was found to be as follows: understanding, technical visibility, learning effect, VR time and space, interaction, and imagination.

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TABLE 4 . Correspondence between variables and factors.

The average score for understanding was the highest (in the VR environment) and had a significant effect on understanding and skill improvement. The questionnaire item “You think VR education can help teachers and students to communicate face to face without space restrictions,” in relation to the VR time and space variables, was divided into an average of 4.6 points (total score = 5 points). The questionnaire item “You think VR6DOF teaching content is a more intuitive teaching experience than video format teaching” also scored 4.2 points (total possible score = 5 points). Testers used this function repeatedly during the learning experience. The function enabling learners to closely watch the teacher’s demonstration may fulfill an aspect of teaching that regular online teaching cannot achieve, and the virtual live experience is even higher than the actual live demonstration experience. This discovery validates the findings of previous studies, that is, that the VR space–time environment can provide an immersive teaching and learning experience, which helps improve learning effectiveness, as shown in Table 5 .

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TABLE 5 . Statistical table showing descriptions of learning effect variables.

4.2.2 Structural Equations for Factors Influencing Learning Motivation in the VR Environment

4.2.2.1 establishment and evaluation of structural equation models.

IBM SPSS was used for modeling and test fitting, and to produce a structural equation model for the theoretical model of teaching effectiveness in relation to VR spatiotemporal characteristics. The model’s proposed index was as follows: χ2 = 101.673, df = 80, IFI = 0.958, CFI = 0.956, TLI = 0.942, and p = 0.051 > 0.05. The overall model adaptation met the standard, and the proposed fit was good. It can be seen that VR time and space interactivity, technical availability and comprehension, interactivity, and learning effect coefficients are negative, and the path coefficients between other variables were positive values, as shown in Table 6 .

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TABLE 6 . Model fitting indicators.

Through statistical inspection and analysis of the structural equations, the standard path coefficient and distinctive results were obtained, as shown in Table 7 . The p value of H1 and H4 reached a significant level of 0.01, indicating that VR time and space have a positive and significant impact on learners’ understanding, and imagination has a positive and significant impact on learning effects. The p values of H2, H6, and H9 reached a significant level of 0.05, indicating that learners’ understanding has a positive and significant impact on the learning effect, technical availability has a positive and significant impact on interactivity, and technical availability has a positive impact on learners’ imagination. The p value of H3 reached a significant level of 0.1, indicating that VR time and space have a positive and significant impact on learners’ imagination. The p values of H5, H7, and H8 did not reach a significant level, indicating that VR time and space do not have a positive and significant impact on interactivity. Interactivity has no positive and significant impact on learning effects, and technical availability has no positive and significant impact on understanding. Judging from the size of the standard path coefficient value, the variable effect of H3 was weak.

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TABLE 7 . Standardized regression coefficient and its distinctiveness.

4.2.2.2 Path Analysis Model of Factors Influencing Learning in the VR Environment

The relationship model of factors influencing learning is shown in Figure 4 (based on the hypothesis test analysis of the model). This indicated that learners’ understanding and imagination can significantly positively affect learning. VR time and space and technical availability have a positive impact on learners’ understanding and imagination. It can be seen from the effect value between the paths in the figure that in the VR learning environment, the factor exerting the greatest impact on learning was imagination, and the direct effect value of this was found to be 0.274. The second factor was that of comprehension, and the direct effect value of this was 0.073. The effect value of both in terms of learning in the VR environment was 0.347. The impact of VR time and space on understanding was greater than the impact of VR time and space on imagination. The effect value of VR time and space in terms of learners’ understanding was 0.317, and the effect value of VR time and space for learners’ imagination was 0.065. The effect value of technical availability in terms of interactive effects was 0.363,-as shown in Figure 5 .

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FIGURE 4 . “You, Calligrapher” operating interface.

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FIGURE 5 . Relationship model of VR time and space characteristics influencing skill-based learning.

5 Discussion

Our results indicated that in terms of VR-based educational games, VR time and space and technical availability are the factors that have the greatest effect on learning, and they have a direct impact on the learners’ understanding, imagination, and interactivity. From the perspective of learning effects, learners’ understanding and imagination have a direct effect, but interactivity does not significantly impact it.

The results indicated that overall, our expectations were met. VR space–time variables have a significant effect on learners’ understanding and imagination, indicating that VR’s immersive and trans -time characteristics have a positive impact on teachers and students. The technical availability of VR technology and artificial intelligence also have a positive impact on learners’ imagination and the interactive experience, indicating that technology plays an important role in facilitating learners’ perceptions of the VR environment in a multidimensional way. The 6DOF interactive application can enable learners to engage with learning in a very lifelike way, as they would in the physical world, with VR creating a well-matched projection of real-time and space sensory feedback within a virtual world. Improvements in both learners’ understanding and imagination have a positive impact on learning, indicating that in information processing and in-depth learning, cognitive understanding and imaginative thinking promote the effectiveness of learning. Dizziness and the controller affected the user experience to a certain extent; consequently, the learning effect was impacted negatively.

5.1 Theoretical Implication

Immersive VR technology creates a learning environment that simulates the physical world, allowing learners to obtain sensory immersion ( Hu et al., 2021 ). VR time and space blur the boundary between real-time and space and virtual time and space, creating a sense of presence that is not limited by such physical constraints, enabling teachers and students to communicate face to face and enhancing the possibility for teaching supervision and feedback. With the enhancement of the body’s perception function, multimode characteristics can enhance the level of stimulation, providing lifelike learning contexts that amplify users’ emotional response and sensory experience, making it easier for them to understand key information. Related EEG studies have further confirmed that in a VR environment, the human brain is more likely to present a neural pattern similar to that of the real thing (Petukhov et al., 2020). On a theoretical level, this provides strong evidence that VR’s space–time nature creates a sense of learning “ in situ ” and improves learners’ understanding. Such findings also indicate that the technical availability of VR and artificial intelligence has a positive effect on learners’ imagination and knowledge acquisition.

However, it has also been found that the interactivity of VR technology can pose major problems, and its high-dimensional characteristics can have a negative impact on the learning process. For example, a VR environment has been known to cause higher cognitive loads and physiological discomfort for learners (such as dizziness and unrealistic controller interaction). Therefore, we should be cautious about VR education and be alert to the impact of redundant information with multidimensional perception, which interferes with learners’ information acquisition.

5.2 Practical Implication

As of now, the world is still being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and social gatherings are severely restricted. Education has been significantly affected by lockdowns and restriction of in-person teaching, especially where practical skills are concerned. Although knowledge can be imparted via distance learning, it is almost impossible to know whether learners have actually acquired such knowledge. In the case of practical skills, students accessing online learning (e.g., in fields such as art, experimental disciplines, and vocational skills) must draw heavily on their imagination. Teachers can only use cameras to shoot the demonstration process, and learners watch teaching videos in order to learn how to carry out the practices in question for themselves.

Some believe that VR will revolutionize education. Teaching processes that can be completed by VR and AI technology for “teacher and apprentice” teaching (including those that require considerable teacher input, as with Chinese calligraphy) can be applied to distance learning using VR technology, and the addition of AI can effectively improve learners’ understanding and powers of imagination. But at the same time, we must also realize that VR and AI still have a long way to go before popularizing education in general. The technical barriers associated with VR equipment (e.g., VR equipment’s stunning, simulation of interactive handles, tactile simulation, and other technologies) are obstacles that practitioners need to overcome.

The author proposes the following as potential applications for improving the effectiveness of learning through the use of VR technology:

5.3 Improve the Role of VR Education

Given the particularity of distance education, different users clearly need to feel confident about the identity of the other party involved in the VR process. Traditional education has a clear identity authentication relationship in a fixed environment scenario, and it is easier for those involved to establish identity relationships with one another. The identity of the teaching and receiving parties is fixed. The relationship between the two is stable, with a guaranteed sense of trust and authority, and given these conditions, the teaching and learning process can progress and produce results.

5.4 Improve Interaction Through Use of VR Education

The function that Internet-based education cannot achieve for traditional skills teaching is the operability of students. Whether lesson materials are accessed via a computer or using mobile data, the process is limited by the user’s input method, that is, a mouse, keyboard, or touch screen, and these modes of operation cannot achieve the interactive functionality of VR technology, with its ability to simulate reality. However, VR can break this deadlock, combining operational interaction with teaching. This technology not only makes it possible for students and teachers to communicate face to face, with teachers modeling key operations in real time, but it also means that students can actually practice the skills involved and obtain feedback on their performance and progress in real time.

5.5 Improve Understanding of Teaching Content and Performance Using VR

In the age of artificial intelligence, the conversion power of language has greatly increased. Real-time translation of language can be achieved through AI, and real-time translation (or conversion) of language to text and text to language, along with real-time translation of language to images, text to images, and even translation of images themselves, can be achieved. Fully intelligent real-time interpretation will be the basic feature of the AI age. In the VR space, the screen is no longer limited by factors such as size and cost. An image of a teacher, real-time translation of language, and text and images can be displayed in the virtual space, which will greatly enhance students’ understanding. With the popularization of the 5G network (and with the help of cloud storage servers), lightweight VR equipment is on its way to becoming a feature of daily life, and it is likely to have a huge transformative effect on education.

5.6 Improve the Design of VR Education and Learning Initiatives

It can be difficult to know how to improve learning initiatives in any educational form, but VR in education is likely to become more prominent. Virtual environments make it impossible for students to stop listening and to disengage. This is very different from normal online programs, where there may be no supervision mechanism, making it possible for students with poor autonomy to lose interest and learn bad habits (especially in the case of younger students). This problem has become very prominent in the Internet age. During COVID-19 lockdowns, teachers have found it difficult to sustain students’ attention between screens, and the systems used may not have a feedback mechanism. Although video conferencing can effectively alleviate this problem with network technology, it is still impossible to achieve the same effect as classroom teaching in the case of distance learning. Teacher supervision and face-to-face contact with students may be almost zero, and a classroom learning atmosphere is difficult to be established. Therefore, in the era of VR education, there is a need to solve this problem in order to achieve true distance education and provide an alternative form of face-to-face teaching.

6 Conclusion

Through our experimental test with the Chinese “You, Calligrapher” VR software, it was found that VR education has a positive effect on learners and teachers in distance education, and this technology can help teachers and students establish an effective “face-to-face” teaching environment and solve the difficulties associated with supervision and providing teacher feedback. Practical skills education in particular can greatly benefit from this approach, meeting the needs of both teachers and learners. The results show that VR time and space can significantly enhance the learning of practical skills. VR space–time is the most important difference between online teaching and traditional education. Technical availability is key to content presentation and, in combination with AI, is a great way to improve the communicative efficiency of teachers and students. Interaction helps promote more intuitive teaching and learning, and synchronization of understanding and imagination is key to students’ knowledge formation. These are some of the core elements of education and have been shown to have a positive impact on learning effects.

6.1 Limitation and Future Work of Study

The research on VR education in this subject is not deep enough, and there is a lack of more diverse experimental samples of educational content. The scope of the experiments is not wide enough, and further observations and experiments are needed to obtain richer data. In the future, we hope to obtain more samples of VR education applications and expand the experimental data population, such as the elderly and school-age children, to obtain a larger amount of data to test the accuracy of research conclusions.

6.2 Academic Contribution

Research into educational psychology training mainly focuses on educators and future developments. Existing research belongs to the fields of pedagogy and computer science. According to previous studies, research has focused on the linearization of skill-based education, with artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology as variable factors, trying to improve the traditional education model, and the purpose is to improve the efficiency of distance operational skill teaching. We used software to test a contemporary Chinese age-group and obtained relevant data for analysis, to clarify the effectiveness of the method, and to make relevant recommendations (to the government and industry) based on the research results.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Author Contributions

PL designed the study, participated in all steps of the research process, and wrote the first draft. TJ made a substantial and direct intellectual contribution to this work, reviewed the literature, revised the manuscript, and participated in the interpretation of the results. ZF has contributed to data collection, statistical analysis, and writing, and is responsible for communication. All authors approved the manuscript and agreed to be responsible for all aspects of the work.

This research was supported by the new engineering construction project of the Chinese Ministry of Education’s collaborative education project (VR virtual simulation collaborative education platform construction) (2018), the “13th Five-Year Plan” project of the development of philosophy and social sciences of Guangzhou City, Research on International Economic Cooperation and Competition in the Bay Area” (2019GZGJ33).

Conflict of Interest

Author ZF was employed by the company Guangzhou Nidu Information Technology Co., Ltd.

The remaining authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors, and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords: VR time and space, artificial intelligence, education strategy, distance education, Chinese calligraphy

Citation: Li P, Fang Z and Jiang T (2022) Research Into improved Distance Learning Using VR Technology. Front. Educ. 7:757874. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2022.757874

Received: 12 August 2021; Accepted: 14 January 2022; Published: 11 February 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Li, Fang and Jiang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Tan Jiang, [email protected]

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The former director of scientific information technology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Christian Presley, has been appointed executive director of Vanderbilt University’s Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education. His appointment began April 15.

The search for a new director began last autumn as part of the university’s dedication to providing the best computing resources for cutting-edge research at Vanderbilt. ACCRE recently expanded its data storage , and the center will play a pivotal role in the new College of Connected Computing , a transformative college dedicated to computer science, AI, data science and related fields.

“Christian Presley’s appointment as ACCRE’s new executive director marks a pivotal moment for Vanderbilt’s computing landscape,” Provost C. Cybele Raver said. “With his exceptional record in IT management and forward-thinking approach, he’s ideally suited to guide ACCRE forward.”

In his previous roles, Presley managed comprehensive IT and computing services, overseeing significant scientific data resources and supporting advanced research infrastructures. He was instrumental in leading the rollout of NIAID’s newest flagship high-performance computer cluster, a 15-petabyte expansion of their high-speed storage and the creation of high-performance graphical group workstations in the data center.

He was also responsible for leading teams for direct support of scientific instrumentation, where the balance of easy and remote access to facilitate research must be balanced with ever changing cybersecurity, as well as outreach to engage researchers directly and address needs. His work with the scientific community there spanned cryo-electron microscopy to AI-assisted protein folding.

Presley is a Nashville native and alumnus of Hume-Fogg High School. “I am very excited to be back in Nashville at such a pivotal time for the growth of research computing at Vanderbilt,” he said. “With so many new initiatives in AI and growing needs for computing across all academic areas, there is so much ACCRE can offer to campus. I see ACCRE as an important partner for both research and education for the entire Vanderbilt community.”

Before his time at NIAID, he led the IT and research computing initiatives at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, a partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he was pivotal in developing and managing teams across web development, desktop support, systems administration, research computing and data analytics/machine learning. His extensive experience and strategic vision are integral to advancing Vanderbilt’s computing capabilities and supporting the university’s mission of fostering breakthrough discoveries and innovations.

“Our faculty-led search committee and I were all struck by the unique combination of leadership skills, technical expertise and strategic thinking that Christian brings to this role,” said Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Padma Raghavan. “His deep expertise and experience in high performance computing, data analytics, machine learning and more have prepared him exceptionally well to provide the critical leadership needed to take research computing at Vanderbilt to the next level.”

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Contributed DISTANCE LEARNING — Ron Peach, technology coordinate at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School, right, and criminal justice instructor Jamie Freeman show off newly installed technology in her program lab.

BLOOMINGDALE — The Jefferson County Joint Vocational School is updating technology throughout its facilities for distance learning and modern educational instruction.

Technology Coordinator Ron Peach said installation was underway at the site in Bloomingdale, which will be equipped with interactive television screens and other technology for networking. Earlier this year, the school received $854,842 under the Fiscal Year 2023 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program that is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. The JVS provided a 15 percent match–or roughly $156,800–for a total of $1,011,647.

The grant will connect the JVS to other educational institutions and offer high-tech supports for networking. Peach said classrooms and labs can connect to other schools and universities and similar capabilities will be available in the cafeteria and training room.

“We’ve had the equipment for about two or three months and began installing over Easter break,” he added. “The whole purpose is so we can do outreach with other schools and have guest speaker who aren’t even onsite.”

The commons area now features two large screens and two laser projectors as well as cameras, microphones and speakers for online interaction. The system is controlled by a touchscreen panel in the room and the equipment can be used for other events such as school assemblies and senior recognition ceremonies. Peach added that classrooms and labs will also have interactive screens for educational use.

“The culinary arts program partnered with West Virginia Northern Community College’s culinary arts program and will have a guest chef speaking to students while criminal justice will partner with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. Cosmetology is partnered with Salon Centric and health technologies will be partnered with St. Louis University School of Medicine,” he continued. “The sheriff’s department and partner schools will get equipment for remote learning while St. Louis University has its own.”

Peach said the installations will continue during summer break and each classroom can take part in distance learning in addition to in-class lessons. The criminal justice classroom already has been outfitted with two 99-inch touchscreen televisions and six speakers and instructor Jamie Freeman plans to take full advantage of the technology to prepare her students for the workforce.

“It’s pretty cool and actually very easy to use,” said Freeman. “The kids really seem to like it.”

The goal is to enhance instruction for students in all academic and vocational programs, from core subjects to the JVS’s 16 hands-on courses: animal science management, auto body collision, auto service technology, carpentry, computer network technologies, cosmetology, criminal justice, culinary arts, early childhood education, electrical trades, health technologies, heavy equipment operator, multimedia and design, power mechanics, Transition To Work and welding.

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Students round in a clinical setting, shadowing and observing clinicians, then, during their capstone class or other practicum-style course, develop a potential solution to the procedures or processes that were identified.

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  6. Emerald Education eJournals

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  1. Research Paper Examining research on the impact of distance and online learning: A second-order meta-analysis study

    Implications and future research. Distance learning had a significant small effect over face-to-face learning overall and specifically for cognitive outcomes. This shows that distance learning is effective when achieving learning outcomes. ... The case of technology integration research in higher education. Journal of Computing in Higher ...

  2. Online education in the post-COVID era

    And while online and distance learning has been used before to maintain continuity in education, ... C. N. in Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (ed. Jonassen, ...

  3. Capturing the benefits of remote learning

    In a recent study, researchers found that 18% of parents pointed to greater flexibility in a child's schedule or way of learning as the biggest benefit or positive outcome related to remote learning ( School Psychology, Roy, A., et al., in press).

  4. Developing student connectedness under remote learning using digital

    (Doctor of Education in Educational Technology), Lehigh University, Pennsylvania. (3314496). Wheeler, S. (2007). The influence of communication technologies and approaches to study on transactional distance in blended learning. Research in Learning Technology, 15(2), 103-117. Article Google Scholar Wiederhold, B. K. (2020).

  5. Research trends in online distance learning during the COVID-19

    Online distance learning emerged as a solution to continue with teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to more scholarly publications in the field. ... The journal article was the predominant form of publication, and collaborative research work was preferred by scholars in this domain. The most-cited articles were ...

  6. Why lockdown and distance learning during the COVID-19 ...

    The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures and distance learning that are likely to exacerbate social class academic disparities. This Review presents an agenda for future research and outlines ...

  7. Influence of e-learning on the students' of higher education in the

    The integration of digital technologies into educational practices has reshaped traditional learning models, creating a dynamic and accessible global landscape for higher education. This paradigm shift transcends geographical boundaries, fostering a more interconnected and inclusive educational environment. This comprehensive literature analysis explores the impact of e-learning on higher ...

  8. PDF 1 Is Online and Distance Learning the Future in Global Higher Education?

    The demand for online and distance education has expanded dramati-cally around the world since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ... limited research has examined the role of distance education in shaping accessible learning. Furthermore, very few studies ... and information technology specialists has affected institutions' abilities

  9. Home

    The National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee was established in 2014 by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). ... Implement technology systems for data collection, storage, and retrieval.

  10. Distance education strategies to improve learning during the ...

    Future research might involve similar trials to assess how well a low-tech learning approach can be adapted across low- and middle-income countries. ... Distance education strategies to improve ...

  11. Student's perspective on distance learning during COVID-19 pandemic: A

    It is learning from outside the normal classroom and involves online education (Lei & Gupta, 2010) A distance learning program can be completely distance learning, or a combination of distance learning and traditional classroom instruction (called hybrid) (Tabor, 2007). This form of teaching helps teachers to access a considerably broader ...

  12. Technology enhanced distance learning should not forget how learning

    Today, universities, promptly followed by secondary and primary schools, are in a fast-track process to adapt their conventional education to design technology-enhanced distance learning (TEDL) - modern teaching machines - in order to reach the approximately 1.5 billion students who are not allowed to physically attend their classes (UNESCO, 2020).

  13. Technology is shaping learning in higher education

    Investors have taken note. Edtech start-ups raised record amounts of venture capital in 2020 and 2021, and market valuations for bigger players soared. A study conducted by McKinsey in 2021 found that to engage most effectively with students, higher-education institutions can focus on eight dimensions of the learning experience. In this article ...

  14. (PDF) Distance Learning

    Sveu čilište Jurja Dobrile u Puli. Preradovićeva 1/1, 52000 Pula. Tel +385 52 377 032. Hrvatska. [email protected]. Abstract: The present paper aims to review distance learning in the context of ...

  15. A student-centered approach using modern technologies in distance

    In relation to the use of modern technologies in distance learning, research also highlights the importance of developing information and communication skills among students. It has been shown that the use of technologies can contribute to the development of collaborative learning, online processing, and other forms of active interaction among ...

  16. The Role Of Technology In Expanding Access To Distance Education And

    This research paper aims to investigate the role of technology in distance learning and its impact on enhancing the learning quality of students.

  17. The use of immersive technologies in distance education: A systematic

    This study aims to conduct a systematic review that includes studies on the use of immersive technologies in distance education. For this purpose, 132 studies detected by searching Web of Science, Eric, Taylor & Francis and Education Full Text (EBSCO) databases were examined. The studies were analysed using the content analysis method. As a result of the analyses, it was observed that the ...

  18. Understanding the role of digital technologies in education: A review

    Online education provides freely available material for learning, teaching, and research. It enables students to engage with a wide range of study material publicly available on the internet, therefore establishing a self-learning environment. ... International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 12 (1) (2015), pp. 29-42 ...

  19. The research on the impact of distance learning on students' mental

    Distance learning under total lockdowns can cause a sense of learned helplessness with online learning technology, and worsen the quality of mental health of students of different age groups. The factors that may eliminate the negative consequences are academic motivation, reduced fatigue and a loss of interaction that cannot be restored with ...

  20. Research Into improved Distance Learning Using VR Technology

    Practical skill-based education requires exemplary face-to-face operational teaching, and VR can enhance online distance learning, facilitating an alternative form of "face-to-face" teaching, which results in better teacher-student communication and learner self-efficacy. It also constitutes as a useful substitute for in-person teaching, and it also has a positive impact on learning ...

  21. The impact of technologies on distance learning students

    This book The impact of new technologies on distance learning students addresses a crucial dimension of educational provision: the expenditure on educational technology of the 27 Ministries of ...

  22. PDF Theories and Research in Educational Technology and Distance Learning

    to discuss the related theories and research of educational technology and the application of "Blackboard" in distance education. 2. Educational Technology Related Theories Since the 20th century, some major educational theories, such as Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and Multiple Intelligence, have been widely implemented in

  23. What Is Distance Learning: And Is It For You?

    Synchronous learning, or lecture-based distance learning, is a technology-supported method of instruction that involves real-time interaction between and among the teacher, students, and course content. In this format, the class meets in one virtual place at the same time. ... Gain online research opportunities and a world-class education with ...

  24. Curriculum & Instruction: M.Ed.

    In 2024, the UVA School of Education & Human Development is ranked #8 for best graduate schools of education in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The school also jumped up 18 spots to tie for second best online graduate education program in the country, and is ranked #4 in curriculum and instruction, and #11 in instructional media ...

  25. Best Online Ph.D. In Management Of 2024

    Per-credit tuition rates for the 10 qualifying Ph.D. programs in our guide range from. $450 to $1,575. Over the course of a typical 60-credit Ph.D. program, this translates to between $27,000 and ...

  26. Vanderbilt welcomes new executive director of Advanced Computing Center

    Christian Presley, former director of scientific information technology at NIAID, has been named the new executive director of Vanderbilt University's Advanced Computing Center for Research and ...

  27. (PDF) Technology in Distance Education

    Abstract. Technology is providing a positive impact on delivery mechanisms employed in distance education at the university level. Some institutions are incorporating distance education as a way ...

  28. Sweden and US strengthen cooperation on research, innovation and education

    Sweden and US strengthen cooperation on research, innovation and education. Published 18 April 2024. To improve the conditions for cooperation between Swedish and American universities, research institutions and businesses on research, innovation and education, Vinnova and the Swedish Research Council have signed a five-year memorandum of ...

  29. Jefferson County JVS adding distance learning technology

    Earlier this year, the school received $854,842 under the Fiscal Year 2023 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program that is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ...

  30. The Bioinnovation Center at Albany Medical College

    The office of Translational Research, Innovation, and Technology Transfer provides enhanced pathways and expanded access opportunities for students, researchers, and faculty who have biomedical ideas with the potential for commercialization or licensing. We are committed to discovering, developing, and accelerating breakthrough biotechnologies ...