This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Virtual Reality in Higher Education: A Case Study at the Air University's Squadron Officer College




Millican, Tony

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


For decades, constructivist educational theorists such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Papert, and Bruner have advocated that for deep learning to occur, learners should have some type of experience related to the subject matter to be learned. A new generation of consumer technology – referred to by titles such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality, and Immersive Technology – offers the ability to use pre-determined “first-person experiences” as a tool for educational outcomes. The investigator in this study examined the efforts of the US Air Force Air University’s Squadron Officer College (SOC) in a quest to evaluate VR as a learning tool in the Professional Military Education (PME) sector of Higher Education. The researcher considered four questions related to the challenges, strategies to overcome challenges, opportunities, and practical applications for integrating Virtual Reality as a learning tool in the SOC education program. The qualitative, intrinsic case study used the uniquely-designed 11-question instrument known as the Immersive Technology in Education Questionnaire (ITEQ) to gather data from 27 volunteer participants in the SOC Commander’s “VR in Education Challenge.” In addition to the 27 open-ended questionnaires, the researcher conducted 10 recorded semi-structured interviews of SOC Stakeholders who had participated in the VR in Education Challenge. From analysis of the questionnaire and interview data, the researcher derived 13 overall themes to answer the 4 key research questions. These themes included Technology-based Challenges, Leadership-based Challenges, Curriculum-based Challenges, Faculty-based Strategies to Overcome, Non-faculty-based Strategies to Overcome, Phenomenon of VR Opportunities, Use Cases for VR Opportunities, Unique Stakeholder Group Opportunities, Air Force-Wide Opportunities, Status Quo VR Applications, In Extremīs VR Applications, In Sitū Impedientī VR Applications, and Opibus Humanis VR Applications. The researcher’s recommendations for action included for higher education agencies to consider implementing a “technology incubator” approach for VR in Education and for developers to work toward building applications that facilitate educational experiences. The researcher promotes development of a specific multi-participant social learning platform to be known as the Virtual Reality Educational Experience (VReX) which engages multiple participants simultaneously in educational content. Additional areas for further research for both military and non-military settings were suggested.