This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Virtual Reality Framework to support Rheumatoid Arthritis Education: The Impact of Different Immersion Levels on the Empathy and Engagement of College Students




Richardson, Alexicia

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Computer Science and Software Engineering

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



The use of Virtual reality (VR) has increased within the medical field. Its uses include assisting physicians and patients through medical education, medical training, patient rehabilitation, surgery simulations, and many more activities. In this research, the work is done in a participatory design process with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Virtual Reality experts to create a VR framework to assist in understanding the effects of Rheumatoid arthritis on the daily life of an RA patient once the disease progresses. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease that affects the joints and potentially internal organs. RA causes stiffness, pain, and swelling in an individual’s joints. By providing users a better understanding of disease progression and its effect on future mobility, the goal is to increase their empathy for others. From reviews of the literature, it has been found that highly immersive experiences can have a significant impact on users. In this research, a RA patient journey is created and will be experienced in multiple levels of immersion for this framework to support clinical disorder education. Next, the users are presented with various levels of immersion (i.e., traditional low-fidelity experiments versus the virtual treatment, which includes multiple virtual simulation experiences). This research aims to observe the effect multiple levels of immersion have on the empathy, user engagement, and user experiences of students.