In an attempt to understand better the unique characteristics of an increasing popular, prevalent form of sense-engaging and interactive multimedia learning experience often called the “virtual learning environment” (VLE), this study systematically evaluates and analyzes the findings of seventeen original research studies in terms of technologies, teaching strategies, presence, and learning.
This evaluation identifies potentially significant relationships among these variables in VLEs with both low-and high-level learning objectives, from memorization and repetition to analysis and synthesis. The findings suggest, first, that, when technologies and teaching strategies are presented through a one-way immersion of the senses, learners most often respond with experiences of spatial presence; when technologies and teaching strategies are socially interactive in format, learners most often respond with experiences of social presence. This evaluation, importantly, suggests that levels of spatial presence may correlate with the achievement of lower-level learning objectives, that levels of social presence may correlate with the achievement of higher-level learning objectives, and that levels of spatial and social presence together may correlate most strongly with the achievement of higher-level learning objectives. The evaluation, finally, identifies a need and establishes a course for the consideration of presence in future VLE design and research.