Funded PhD Opportunity The role of Virtual Reality, and cognate technologies, in supporting education in schools.

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Education


The commercial viability and economic potential of Virtual Reality (VR) are in a period of significant growth. In the UK, the market value of VR is reported in popular press (Pham, 2017) to be on track to rise by 390% between 2016 and 2020 to £354.3m. Growth is further emphasised by the UK Head of Entertainment at PwC stating “The UK’s VR industry will generate more revenue than any other country in Western Europe…” by 2022 (McDonald, 2018). The adoption and advancement of VR by global technology giants such as Facebook, Samsung and Google herald unprecedented commercial interest in this area with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg citing VR’s potential to be “the next major computing platform” (Urstadt & Frier, 2016).

Similarly, if the rise in the variety and number of educational outputs is an effective guide, VR is increasingly in use in education and training. The technology has been cited by researchers from a range of diverse fields such as dissecting a virtual frog (Lee, Wong and Fung, 2010), teaching mathematical concepts (Pasqualotti & Freitas, 2002) or learning about thermodynamics (Coller & Shernoff, 2009).

Despite the proliferation of research on the potential effectiveness of VR across a range of educational settings (Vaughan et al., 2016), examining how it can be implemented with and help to support Initial Teacher Education (ITE) seems to have been little researched. If the ambitious growth projections are to be realised, it is imperative that tomorrow’s workforce, today’s school children, have access to similarly immersive, creative and pedagogically robust learning experiences designed and facilitated by a well-informed teaching profession.

Considering immersive technologies as a continuum which includes Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 360 video and imagery, this proposed PhD Studentship will address how immersive technologies can be used by teachers, through the creation and use of reusable learning objects which support the Northern Ireland Curriculum using both free and commercially available platforms. It will aim to examine the impact of VR, and associated technologies, through the creation of Situated Experiential Educational Environments – SEEEs (Schott and Marshall, 2018) and other artefacts to examine the impact that virtual environments can have on learners occupying a virtual space.

The successful candidate will investigate and design ways to improve the efficacy of learning and teaching when using this technology in schools, and how the impact on profound learning of VR-type technologies in education can be maximised. The research output and findings will be prepared for publication in peer-reviewed academic journals, international conferences and summarized in the final thesis.


Coller, B. D., & Shernoff, D. J. (2009). Video game-based education in mechanical engineering: a look at student engagement. International Journal of Engineering Education, 25, 308–317.

Lee, E. A., Wong, K. W., & Fung, C. C. (2010). How does desktop virtual reality enhance learning outcomes? A structural equation modeling approach. Computers & Education, 55, 1424–1442.

McDonald, A. (2018) PwC: VR the fastest growing segment of UK media sector. London: Digital TV Europe. Available from: [Accessed 10 November 2018]

Pasqualotti, A., & Freitas, C. M. D. S. (2002). MAT3D: a virtual reality modeling language environment for the teaching and learning of mathematics. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 5(5), 409–422.

Pham, M. (2018) Samsung predicts VR to soar 390pc by 2020. [Accessed 10 November 2018]

Schott, C. and Marshall, S. (2018) Virtual reality and situated experiential education: A conceptualization and exploratory trial. Journal of Computer Assisted Learnin,g 34, 843-852.

Urstadt, B., & Frier S.  (2016) Welcome to Zuckerworld. New York: Bloomberg Businessweek. Available from: [Accessed 10 November 2018]

Vaughan, N., Gabrys, B. & Dubey, V.N. (2016) An overview of self-adaptive technologies within virtual reality training. Computer Science Review, 22, 65-87

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 1500 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • For VCRS Awards, Masters at 75%
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
March 2019


Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
Our coastal and riverside campus focussing on science and health

Contact Supervisor

Dr Stephen Roulston

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #345812 when applying for this PhD opportunity