Higher Learning Research Communications

Digital Object Identifier



Chris D. Craig, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6786-3685; Robin Kay, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0416-5980


Objectives: Immersive virtual reality (IVR) provides opportunities to learn within a nonphysical, digital world. The purpose of this critical review was to examine published systematic reviews regarding the benefits and challenges of IVR in higher education to inform best practices.

Method: We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Overviews of Reviews (PRIOR) to ensure transparency and to afford an evidence-based approach for synthesizing insights from a broad range of research. We analyzed and synthesized 10 reviews that include 332 studies with over 9,878 participants, following an integrated synthesis design process using thematic analysis and emergent coding.

Results: Results confirmed the various benefits and challenges of IVR. The benefits include improved student learning and behaviours, while challenges include technology issues, behaviours that inhibit learning, and learning how to use IVR.

Conclusions: IVR holds considerable potential in disciplines requiring practical applications such as simulation-based training and testing. However, further research into contexts such as participant age, gender, instructional design or learning theory, and longitudinal study is required. Finally, higher education stakeholders will benefit from budgeting time and costs, aligning IVR use with real-world applications, maintaining an adaptive mindset, and developing scaffolded instructional design.

Implications for Theory and/or Practice: The primary benefits of student learning through IVR include enhanced skill acquisition, experiences, and learning outcomes. In addition, while immersive platforms housed in static rooms may present financial challenges, the emergence of—and increased investment into—untethered headsets and haptic controllers can reduce operational costs and increase student access to high-quality learning experiences.