Trial of a desktop virtual reality application as a method of exposure for test anxiety: a qualitative study
Authors: Serafini, M., Chittaro, L.
Published in: Behaviour & Information Technology, in press, 2024.
Abstract: Test anxiety involves feelings of discomfort, fear and worry, impacting students’ wellbeing and academic performance. Virtual reality exposure (VRE) shows promise in mitigating test anxiety, but existing applications concern only written exams. Few VRE applications simulate one-on-one interviews with examiners, and applications for public speaking focus on formal presentations before an audience. This paper concerns a trial of a VRE application that deals with oral exams, presenting a qualitative study of a sample of undergraduate students who autonomously used the VRE application in their homes over three weeks. The application exposes students to scenarios in which a virtual examiner displays friendly, partially friendly, or unfriendly behaviour while asking questions selected from a pool defined by the student. Participants were interviewed to investigate their perceptions of and experience with the application. Thematic analysis of participants’ interviews indicates that they perceived the VRE application as valuable not only for studying and practicing oral exams but also for handling emotional aspects associated with the exam. Moreover, the application helped to increase confidence and awareness of preparation level among some participants. Finally, the paper describes participants’ suggestions emerged from the study that can be used to inform the design of this type of applications.