Desktop virtual reality as an exposure method for test anxiety: quantitative and qualitative feasibility study
Authors: Chittaro, L., Serafini, M.
Published in: Multimedia Tools and Applications, Vol. 83, April 2024, pp. 36129-36155..
Abstract: Test anxiety is an emotional state characterized by subjective feelings of discomfort, fear, and worry that can considerably affect students’ academic performance. Virtual Reality exposure (VRE) is a promising approach to address test anxiety, but the few VRE systems for test anxiety in the literature concern only written exams. Since oral exams elicit more anxiety than written exams, the availability of VRE systems for oral exams would be precious to a large population of students worldwide. Another limitation of existing VRE systems for test anxiety is that they require the availability of a head-mounted display, posing a barrier to widespread use. This paper aims to address both issues, proposing a VRE system that deals with oral exams and can be used with common PC displays. The design of the proposed system is organized in three oral test scenarios in which a virtual agent acts as the student’s examiner. The virtual examiner behaves friendly in the first scenario and increasingly reduces its friendliness in the two subsequent scenarios. The paper assesses the feasibility for VRE of the proposed system with two complementary methods. First, we describe a quantitative user study of the three system scenarios, showing that they induce increasing levels of anxiety. Second, we present a qualitative thematic analysis of participants’ post-exposure interviews that sheds further light on the aspects of the virtual experience that contributed to eliciting negative or positive affect in participants, and provides insights for improving VRE systems for test anxiety.