Testing the effects of educational strategies on comprehension of a genomic concept using virtual reality technology

Kimberly A Kaphingst, Susan Persky, Cade McCall, Christina Lachance, Johanna Loewenstein, Andrew C Beall, Jim Blascovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Applying genetic susceptibility information to improve health will likely require educating patients about abstract concepts, for which there is little existing research. This experimental study examined the effect of learning mode on comprehension of a genomic concept.

METHODS: 156 individuals aged 18-40 without specialized knowledge were randomly assigned to either a virtual reality active learning or didactic learning condition. The outcome was comprehension (recall, transfer, mental models).

RESULTS: Change in recall was greater for didactic learning than for active learning (p<0.001). Mean transfer and change in mental models were also higher for didactic learning (p<0.0001 and p<0.05, respectively). Believability was higher for didactic learning (p<0.05), while ratings for motivation (p<0.05), interest (p<0.0001), and enjoyment (p<0.0001) were higher for active learning, but these variables did not mediate the association between learning mode and comprehension.

CONCLUSION: These results show that learning mode affects comprehension, but additional research is needed regarding how and in what contexts different approaches are best for educating patients about abstract concepts.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Didactic, interpersonal health education approaches may be more effective than interactive games in educating patients about abstract, unfamiliar concepts. These findings indicate the importance of traditional health education approaches in emerging areas like genomics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-30
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Comprehension
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Educational
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • User-Computer Interface

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