Application of Cognitive Load Theory in VR Development and Its Impact on Learning: A Perspective on Prior Knowledge, Learning Interest, Engagement, and Content Comprehension

Dwi Sulisworo - Universitas Ahmad Dahlan, Indonesia
Vera Yuli Erviana - Universitas Ahmad Dahlan, Indonesia
Bambang Robiin - Universitas Ahmad Dahlan, Indonesia

Citation Format:



This research examines the utilization of Virtual Reality (VR) and its implications for the learning process, specifically focusing on learning interest, prior knowledge, learning engagement, and content comprehension. The central objective is to establish a comprehensive model that unravels the intricate interplay between these factors within the context of VR-based learning. The study also aims to shed light on the impact of integrating Cognitive Load Theory into VR development and its effects on the learning experience. Adopting an observational design, this study elucidates the intricate relationships among learning interest, prior knowledge, learning engagement, and content comprehension in VR-based education. The VR technology employed in this research has previously undergone rigorous feasibility testing. The VR application was designed following cognitive load theory principles. Its immersive content offers users a lifelike immersion into the natural habitats of diverse animal species across various global regions. By leveraging VR technology, elementary school students engage in a more profound and authentic learning journey. A total of 85 participants, encompassing fourth and fifth-grade elementary school students, were involved in the study. These students were drawn from schools situated in rural areas in particular regions in Indonesia and had moderate to low economic backgrounds. The variables under examination include Prior Knowledge, Learning Interest, Engagement, and Content Comprehension as learning outcomes. Data analysis was conducted utilizing a blend of linear regression and path analysis techniques, with a confidence level of 95%. The Guttman scale questionnaire was used, and total scores were transformed into a ratio scale through a conversion process. The study reveals a positive correlation between learning interest and learning outcomes, highlighting that a strong interest in a subject contributes to improved learning results. Additionally, both learning interest and prior knowledge influence learning engagement. Students with higher learning interests and prior knowledge are more likely to actively engage in the learning process actively, underscoring internal factors' role in motivating participation. Learning engagement moderates the relationships between learning interest, prior knowledge, and learning outcomes. By enhancing the effect of learning interest and prior knowledge on learning outcomes, engagement enables more comprehensive and practical information processing.


Cognitive load theory; Content comprehension; Engagement; Learning interest; Prior knowledge; Virtual reality

Full Text:



J. Bacca-Acosta, J. Tejada, R. Fabregat, and J. Guevara, “Scaffolding in immersive virtual reality environments for learning English: an eye tracking study,” Educational technology research and development, vol. 70, no. 1, pp. 339–362, 2022.

E. A. O’Connor and T. Worman, “Designing for interactivity, while scaffolding student entry, within immersive virtual reality environments,” Journal of Educational Technology Systems, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 292–317, 2019.

L. F. Dreimane, “Understanding the educational rationale behind learning in virtual reality: a historical development vignette,” Innovations, Technologies and Research in Education, p. 23, 2019.

N. Pellas, A. Dengel, and A. Christopoulos, “A scoping review of immersive virtual reality in STEM education,” IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 748–761, 2020.

S. A. W. Andersen, P. T. Mikkelsen, L. Konge, P. Cayé‐Thomasen, and M. S. Sørensen, “Cognitive load in distributed and massed practice in virtual reality mastoidectomy simulation,” Laryngoscope, vol. 126, no. 2, pp. E74–E79, 2016.

P. Ayres, “Something old, something new from cognitive load theory,” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 113. Elsevier, p. 106503, 2020.

J. J. G. Van Merrienboer and J. Sweller, “Cognitive load theory and complex learning: Recent developments and future directions,” Educ Psychol Rev, vol. 17, pp. 147–177, 2005.

X. Xu and F. Ke, “Designing a virtual-reality-based, gamelike math learning environment,” American Journal of Distance Education, 2016, doi: 10.1080/08923647.2016.1119621.

D. Bogusevschi, C. Muntean, and ..., “Teaching and learning physics using 3D virtual learning environment: A case study of combined virtual reality and virtual laboratory in secondary school,” … and Science Teaching, 2020, [Online]. Available:

J. Martín-Gutiérrez, C. E. Mora, B. Añorbe-Díaz, and ..., “Virtual technologies trends in education,” … Technology Education, 2017, [Online]. Available:

D. M. Shafer, C. P. Carbonara, and M. F. Korpi, “Factors affecting enjoyment of virtual reality games: a comparison involving consumer-grade virtual reality technology,” Games Health J, 2019, doi: 10.1089/g4h.2017.0190.

D. Sulisworo, V. Y. Erviana, and B. Robiin, “Enhancing Elementary School Students’environment Awareness through Virtual Reality Based Immersive Learning Experiences,” in EDULEARN23 Proceedings, IATED, 2023, pp. 8384–8390.

M. T. Y. Lin, J. S. Wang, H. M. Kuo, and Y. Luo, “A study on the effect of virtual reality 3D exploratory education on students’ creativity and leadership,” … and Technology Education, 2017, [Online]. Available:

K. H. Cheng and C. C. Tsai, “Students’ motivational beliefs and strategies, perceived immersion and attitudes towards science learning with immersive virtual reality: A partial least squares …,” British Journal of Educational …, 2020, doi: 10.1111/bjet.12956.

S. C. Chang, T. C. Hsu, W. C. Kuo, and ..., “Effects of applying a VR‐based two‐tier test strategy to promote elementary students’ learning performance in a Geology class,” … Journal of Educational …, 2020, doi: 10.1111/bjet.12790.

A. Armougum, E. Orriols, A. Gaston-Bellegarde, C. Joie-La Marle, and P. Piolino, “Virtual reality: A new method to investigate cognitive load during navigation,” J Environ Psychol, vol. 65, p. 101338, 2019.

H. K. Tabbers, R. L. Martens, and J. J. G. Van Merriënboer, “Multimedia instructions and cognitive load theory: Effects of modality and cueing,” British journal of educational psychology, vol. 74, no. 1, pp. 71–81, 2004.

R. Liu, L. Wang, J. Lei, Q. Wang, and ..., “Effects of an immersive virtual reality‐based classroom on students’ learning performance in science lessons,” … Journal of Educational …, 2020, doi: 10.1111/bjet.13028.

J. Parong and R. E. Mayer, “Learning science in immersive virtual reality.,” J Educ Psychol, 2018, [Online]. Available:

P. Albus, A. Vogt, and T. Seufert, “Signaling in virtual reality influences learning outcome and cognitive load,” Comput Educ, vol. 166, p. 104154, 2021.

J. C. Castro-Alonso and B. B. de Koning, “Latest trends to optimize computer-based learning: Guidelines from cognitive load theory,” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 112. Elsevier, p. 106458, 2020.

M. R. A. Haryana, S. Warsono, D. Achjari, and E. Nahartyo, “Virtual reality learning media with innovative learning materials to enhance individual learning outcomes based on cognitive load theory,” The International Journal of Management Education, vol. 20, no. 3, p. 100657, 2022.

J. G. Frederiksen et al., “Cognitive load and performance in immersive virtual reality versus conventional virtual reality simulation training of laparoscopic surgery: a randomized trial,” Surg Endosc, vol. 34, pp. 1244–1252, 2020.

C. Carbonell-Carrera and J. L. Saorín, “Geospatial Google Street View with virtual reality: A motivational approach for spatial training education,” … International Journal of Geo-Information, 2017, [Online]. Available:

T. Trust, N. Woodruff, M. Checrallah, and J. Whalen, “Educators’ interests, prior knowledge and questions regarding augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D printing and modeling,” TechTrends, vol. 65, pp. 548–561, 2021.

G. Makransky, P. Wismer, and ..., “A gender matching effect in learning with pedagogical agents in an immersive virtual reality science simulation,” … Assisted Learning, 2019, doi: 10.1111/jcal.12335.

H.-L. Chen and Y.-C. Liao, “Effects of panoramic image virtual reality on the workplace English learning performance of vocational high school students,” Journal of Educational Computing Research, vol. 59, no. 8, pp. 1601–1622, 2022.

Z. Taçgın, “The perceived effectiveness regarding Immersive Virtual Reality learning environments changes by the prior knowledge of learners,” Educ Inf Technol (Dordr), vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 2791–2809, 2020.

J. M. Pilgrim and J. Pilgrim, “The use of virtual reality tools in the reading-language arts classroom.,” Texas Journal of Literacy Education, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 90–97, 2016.

W. Huang, R. D. Roscoe, M. C. Johnson‐Glenberg, and S. D. Craig, “Motivation, engagement, and performance across multiple virtual reality sessions and levels of immersion,” J Comput Assist Learn, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 745–758, 2021.

J. A. Bennett and C. P. Saunders, “A virtual tour of the cell: Impact of virtual reality on student learning and engagement in the STEM classroom,” J Microbiol Biol Educ, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 10–1128, 2019.

C. Flavián, S. Ibáñez-Sánchez, and C. Orús, “Impacts of technological embodiment through virtual reality on potential guests’ emotions and engagement,” Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 1–20, 2021.

B. Mouatt, A. E. Smith, M. L. Mellow, G. Parfitt, R. T. Smith, and T. R. Stanton, “The use of virtual reality to influence motivation, affect, enjoyment, and engagement during exercise: A scoping review,” Front Virtual Real, vol. 1, p. 564664, 2020.

L. Annetta, J. Mangrum, S. Holmes, K. Collazo, and M. Cheng, “Bridging reality to virtual reality: Investigating gender effect and student engagement on learning through video game play in an elementary school classroom,” Int J Sci Educ, vol. 31, no. 8, pp. 1091–1113, 2009.

D. Sulisworo, V. Y. Erviana, B. Robiin, Y. Sepriansyah, and A. Soleh, “The Feasibility of Enhancing Environmental Awareness using Virtual Reality 3D in the Primary Education,” Educ Res Int, vol. 2022, 2022.

G. Yang, Y. T. Chen, X. L. Zheng, and ..., “From experiencing to expressing: A virtual reality approach to facilitating pupils’ descriptive paper writing performance and learning behavior engagement,” … Journal of Educational …, 2021, doi: 10.1111/bjet.13056.

T. Hachaj and D. Baraniewicz, “Knowledge Bricks—Educational immersive reality environment,” Int J Inf Manage, 2015, [Online]. Available:

V. Caro, B. Carter, S. Dagli, M. Schissler, and J. Millunchick, “Can virtual reality enhance learning: A case study in materials science,” in 2018 IEEE Frontiers in education conference (FIE), IEEE, 2018, pp. 1–4.

M. G. Violante, E. Vezzetti, and P. Piazzolla, “How to design a virtual reality experience that impacts the consumer engagement: the case of the virtual supermarket,” International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDeM), vol. 13, pp. 243–262, 2019.