Dr Harriet Marshall portrait

Written by Dr Harriet Marshall

Head of Educational Research at Lyfta and has been a global education advocate for over 20 years, as a teacher, researcher, consultant and education project leader.

A University of Tampere study found that virtual immersive environments that contain interactive human stories can help reduce learners’ social anxiety around meeting people from different cultural backgrounds.

A study using  teaching resources from Lyfta has found that the multi-sensory and participatory nature of immersive 360° experiences led to a decrease in learners’ sense of social anxiety about meeting people from different cultural backgrounds. Engaging with new people in an immersive virtual setting gives students the opportunity to identify common interests and, as a result, develop more positive feelings towards them. Although the study was completed with undergraduate students, we are excited about the implications for engaging school-aged students with digital immersive storytelling.

The study has been published in the International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning. Its findings show that the reduction in social anxiety was especially significant among those who had high levels of social anxiety before the learning experience, adding to our growing understanding that immersive digital storytelling can be of particular benefit to students who get little or no opportunity to interact with those from different cultural backgrounds.

The researchers were influenced by our own school-based research (summed up in the video here), where students were shown photos of six people featured in our storyworlds, and asked how much they felt they had in common with each person, before and after exploring their stories. We found that experiencing the storyworlds led to a significant positive difference in students’ attitudes towards the people they ‘met’ there. 

Our vision at Lyfta is that by the time a child leaves school, they would have had the chance to experience, and emotionally connect with, human stories from every country in the world. Lyfta stories give students the opportunity to see how interconnected and interdependent we all are. The findings of this study provide exciting evidence that Lyfta’s powerful and immersive resources have real impact in helping to nurture empathetic global citizens.

Read the University of Tampere study in full now

If you are looking to foster global citizenship and empathy in your classroom, you can Register now for free trial access to two immersive Lyfta storyworlds. https://registration.lyfta.com/

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