Thoughts on our first school playtest

As mentioned before, last Thursday was our first time getting the students in VR. We thought it would be a good idea to write down some of our learnings here, because we had some very interesting responses.

The first things we noticed were the few things that worked really well as intended. We were dumbfounded that there were no networking issues. This was our biggest fear at the beginning of the day. When we first showed Susan the teacher controls on the iPad, she exclaimed, “Wow, this is simple;” exactly what we were looking for. Without prompting, once in the headset, the students “waved” at each other by shaking the controller upward. Also, when we “paused” our experience, the boisterous students quiet down, and when we “ended” our experience, they started to take the headsets off without prompting.

That being said, there was a lot of stuff we weren’t expecting. I’ll probably just start listing them out, so this post may start to become a long wall of text. Even so, I think a lot of these observations are fascinating!

First of all, initially getting the students in the headset (not even inside our experience, just having the headset on) took around 25 minutes for the first group and 10 minutes for the second group. It may have been easier with the second group because there were less students and extra headsets, meaning that I could demonstrate in the front of the class and the students could follow along. When we told them they could stand up to experience this as opposed to sit, the students started physically grouping up with their friends. This led to some minor issues since the kids didn’t understand the controller’s positional tracking, they would extend their arms as far as they could and sometimes hit others.

That all being said, once the students were in the experience, some interesting things happened. The students started turning and talking to the nearest avatar in the virtual space, regardless of if the friend they were talking to was halfway across the room. There were various “woahs!” and “cools.” We noticed that some students didn’t realize that they could teleport to different areas, and actually seemed perfectly happy just sitting in one place and looking around. We got one of the girls names wrong by one letter, and she seemed visibly upset. The other students kept on commenting on the wrong name, and I think it made her embarrassed. We felt quite bad, but we learned from this. A tiny screw up on our part can really affect the people playing our game on a personal level. One boy also had trouble getting into the game because he selected his friend’s name instead of his own. He said that he picked that name, because it was his best friend and if he clicked it, he thought he could see things from his friend’s perspective. One girl took the daydream off before the experience ended, and we’re not totally sure why.

A big thing that was different from what we expected was the student teacher dynamic. I think we had this idea in mind that the teacher would be in the front of the room looking and observing with the iPad while the students stayed in the areas around their desks. This wasn’t the case. Susan was very much walking around the room making sure all of the students were okay and comfortable while asking questions like, “What do you see? “Can you click to learn more?” It was a lot more personal of a connection than we were expecting. Still, the iPad stayed at the front of the room with at least one of us. I’m wondering how the dynamic will change if we give Susan the iPad without our help.

Once out of the experience, we received a lot of feedback. Around 40%-50% of the students reported dizziness. Our thoughts are that is was because it was their first time in VR. If these problems persist, we’ll try to ease up on the teleportation mechanic, which probably accentuates the dizziness. The students didn’t seem to pay as much attention to the blurbs as we assumed they would, and instead preferred to explore and communicate with their friends. We’re assuming with the addition of the scavenger hunt, this could change. In general, they just wanted more stuff. Some wanted more animals, some wanted more interactions, some wanted more areas to explore, and some wanted to explore completely new different places (like a doctor’s office). There were a few that stuck with us though. Many kids wanted something scary. Our hypothesis is that since it’s October, Halloween is on a lot of kids minds. Even so, we plan on having some scarier interactions, like having a bat swoop down on you when you enter the cave. One student commented that he felt weird when he was up in the air with nothing below him (we have one teleportation point where you hover above the lake).

We implemented a few different features to try and fix some of the problems we saw. We created a tool for the teacher where if they tapped on a student’s name, they would teleport to them. It seemed a little cluttered with 20 people, so it would be nice to go directly to where a student would need you. As I mentioned, we’ll develop surprise or scary elements to quell the students’ need for scariness. We are going to change the blurbs from paragraph form to bullet point form, making the information more digestible. Lastly, we’ll create a back button on the name select screen so it becomes easy to go back if you select a wrong name.


Until next time!