1 Cyprus University of Technology (CYPRUS)
2 Fundación Siglo22 (SPAIN)
3 University of the Aegean (GREECE)
4 Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning (MALTA)
5 Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 4666-4672
ISBN: 978-84-09-49026-4
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2023.1224
Conference name: 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2023
Location: Valencia, Spain
The active involvement of end-users in the design and development of a Virtual Reality (VR) application for training purposes is of paramount importance to achieve the development of a system that meets the needs of end-users and has added value to them. Very often developers and researchers create innovative technology-based applications that have little or no use for end-users. Understanding end-user's perspectives and needs plays a key role in ensuring that the final outcome will be useful for the target audience. Undoubtedly, there seems to be a gap between developers and end-users that could be addressed using ‘human-centered design’ (HCD) methodology. HCD places end-users at the heart of the design process and could be the way to bridge this gap and lack of understanding of end-users needs, preferences and expectations. Researchers, developers and end-users are all part of the same process; hence, their active involvement will ensure both the quality of the deliverable and the satisfaction of end-users.

This paper presents the process of developing a VR-based application for teacher training and education under the VRTEACHER Erasmus+ project. The idea of the VRTEACHER project was conceived during the pandemic COVID-19 with the vision to promote the personal and professional development of teachers and maximize their adaptability and readiness to confront crisis situations that can be encountered during a crisis such as a pandemic. The project’s innovation and added value lie in the use of immersive and experiential VR-based training experiences that reflect real-life scenarios and situations. Equally important, is that the project is carried out in five different European countries (Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Malta and Ireland) that are facing challenges that are very similar, but have different histories, professionalism, and approach related to teacher education.

During the first months of the project, a survey focusing on teachers took place to investigate their needs, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic and identify the skills to address via the VR applications. Based on the survey results, focus groups with teachers and other education experts took place to investigate in more depth the needs of the target audience and their expectations of a VR training tool. The survey and focus group results formed the basis for the development of the VRTEACHER competence framework that addresses empathy, inclusion, decision-making, self-efficacy and stress resistance. The scenarios that were designed and developed within the VR environment address the defined competence framework. The focus groups also revealed significant information related to teachers' problems and challenges encountered during the pandemic and the delivery of teaching online that contributed to the development of the final scenarios. Three scenarios have been developed within the VR application. The first scenario has to do with distance education, as teachers from all countries found it difficult to handle, while they felt unprepared to confront lockdowns and delivery of education entirely online. The second scenario deals with students’ COVID-19-related phobias and the third scenario has to do with refugee students that schools around Europe try to support with no preparation and guidelines to follow. The VRTEACHER project aims to support future initiatives towards VR-based teacher training and expand the existing VR application with new scenarios.
Education, Teacher training, Virtual Reality, User involvement.