Virtual worlds vs books and videos in history education

Kiran Ijaz*, Anton Bogdanovych, Tomas Trescak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we investigate an application of virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) as a technological combination that has a potential to improve the learning experience and engage with the modern generation of students. To address this need, we have created a virtual reality replica of one of humanity's first cities, the city of Uruk and populated this city with AI-controlled 3D avatars, which re-enact everyday life of ancient Sumerians in the period around 3000 B.C. Our hypothesis is that by immersing students into this environment and allowing them to learn by browsing through it and interacting with its virtual citizens can be more engaging and motivating than simply reading the corresponding history text or watching an educational video. To confirm this assumption, we have designed a study with three groups of students. One group was given a historical text about Uruk and everyday life of its citizens (created by our subject matter experts), the second group was shown a documentary video on Uruk and the third group was immersed into virtual Uruk and engaged into interactions with its virtual inhabitants. The outcomes of the study suggest that not only did people in the third group provide much more positive qualitative feedback about the learning experience, but they also showed a better comprehension of the study material by performing (on average) 20% better than the first two groups on the mini-exam that was conducted as a part of this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-929
Number of pages26
JournalInteractive Learning Environments
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • agent-based learning environments
  • artificial intelligence
  • culture and heritage in virtual worlds
  • Virtual learning environments


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