Dr. Nigel Newbutt, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of the West of England to present: Learning in Virtual Reality at iLRN2019

Dr. Nigel Newbutt

Senior Lecturer and Senior Researcher at the University of the West of England, Bristol

Learning in Virtual Reality: Opportunities and challenges for using VR in schools for young autistic people

In this talk, I will explore the potential, opportunities, and challenges that virtual reality head-mounted displays can provide for autistic pupils in their education endeavours. With a growing and developing research evidence-base for the potential of VR for autistic groups, there has been a concerted effort to consider ways that VR can be applied to support social skills, job interviewing skills, communication skills amoung many others. However, much of this research is at an early stage of providing compelling evidence for using VR HMDs, in addition to a lack of including autistic voices and stakeholders in research design and collaboration. In this talk, I will outline ways that I’ve engage autistic communities in the design and evaluation of VR research with the aim to support them in outcomes important to their lives. This includes working in schools and classrooms. I will report some data from projects we’ve worked on to explore the use and potential of HMDs in autistic children and will present what they’ve been telling us.


He is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Researcher at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He has a BSc in Multimedia Technology, a Masters in Education, and a PG Certificate in Research Methods in addition to interests in HE pedagogy including: assessment, E- learning and Higher Education policy. His PhD saw him working with virtual worlds and users with autism to help teach/develop social and communication skills; in addition to the representation of self via avatars. This saw him engaged in fieldwork with a school in the UK carrying out a case study examining the role of HCI in virtual environments. This work has extended to the potential use of VR HMDs for autistic pupils in schools, and in other settings. This includes issues related to acceptability, presence, and immersion.

He completed an EPSRC Fellowship (over 4-months) at Michigan State University (College of Education) investigating the acceptance and role of virtual reality technology used by people on the autism spectrum. Other research includes the role that virtual environments can play to develop communication and social skill opportunities for young people with autism; in addition to the manner in which technology can be successfully deployed in schools and developed by teachers to enable successful solutions.

He is also the Editor for the Journal of Enabling Technologies.

Link to outputs and work: https://people.uwe.ac.uk/Person/NigelNewbutt