Immersive narrative – a collaboration with colleagues at Coventry University

There are so many variables that influence human behaviours, attitudes, habits and actions, and understanding people as individuals is a complex process. Empathy is a very difficult “skill” to master especially when you put cultural aspects into the mix. Experience is key to incrementally developing this skill.

Assumptions can be made prior to meeting a new person (either client, patients, students, etc.), but perceptions can quickly change when meeting face-to-face. And the use of body language, vocal tone, micro expressions and other such auditory and visual signals can sub-consciously trigger responses in face-to-face meetings, collectively influencing the granularity of the conversation dynamic. 

Working with colleagues from the Health and Life Sciences, they emphasises that it is important to be able to understand how a client is feeling so that their patient journey is as smooth as possible. “Theory based models only give a vague insight into how a real-life scenario unfolds, and role-play can be time consuming in organizing, and also requires recurring costs“.

We have recently collaborated on a research project, which is called Immersive Narrative aiming to experiment on various approaches to help our students at Coventry University to explore the need for emphathy and deeper learning. Our ambition is to experiment  visual interpretation through 3D animation within a 360/VR environment, with characters, rigs and animations that can be re-purposed, without the need for employing actors or simulated patients.

The team member includes Sheila Leddington-Wright and Michelle Stanley from the Sports Therapy unit and Sean Graham from the Centre of Excellence in Learning (CELE).

The research question is: Would fidelity in character representations influence the level of engagement and enhance empathy and deeper understanding of learning scenarios?

Our objectives include:

  • Develop 3D character and scenario for proof of concept using Unity 3D based on Sports Therapy case studies.


  • Translate into the VR/360 environment

in-game-VR screenshot

The scenarios have been developed and the initial testings have also been carried out.

  • Randomised Control Trials – An RCT (n>45) consisting of a control group with 4 different interventions (a written script, audio dictation, traditional screen based animation, and an immersive VR animation) were carried out to evaluate the significance of a 3D character approach to storytelling. Analysis of findings will indicate any direct impact on the quality and effectiveness of learning resources developed within the University, and for the wider academic community.

The findings are still being analysed and the outcomes will be published in one of the SJR: Q1 or Q2 journals. But what we have observed so far is the potential of using a more immersive approach using off the shelf GoogleCardboard to help engage learners in learning scenarios. The next level up is to add a meta-narrative to encapsulate the different scenarios into a game-like adventure. Watch this space!

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