Virtual reality learning environments : Development of multi-user reference support experiences

Jim F. Hahn (University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Publication date: 12 November 2018



The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a case study on virtual reality (VR) learning environments, focused on the development and integration of multi-user reference support.


This paper used a case study methodology to understand applied software development incorporating textual browsing experiences within the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. An open corpus of text from the HathiTrust Digital Library accessed via the API was used as a data source.


In collaboration with students from a senior undergraduate Computer Science project course, the project team developed software to pilot a multi-user VR experience, with functionality for users to search, discover and select e-books and other digitized content from the HathiTrust digital library.


Overall, the system has been developed as a prototype e-book experiment to model several VR affordances for browsing, user support and educational endeavors within libraries. Within the VR reading room pilot, users are able collaboratively explore digital collections. Aspects of reference librarian user support were modeled in the VR system including communication in real-time using chat features and text highlighting and manipulation tools that are unique to learning in VR environments.



Hahn, J.F. (2018), "Virtual reality learning environments : Development of multi-user reference support experiences", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 119 No. 11, pp. 652-661.

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