Education has always been conceived as being formed of physical classroom activities in which students and teachers meet face to face [1
]. Educational content delivered by the teachers is then processed by the students [2
]. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic other means of delivering education have become much more widespread [3
], and educational institutes worldwide have shifted towards online or remote learning modes using current digital technologies [4
]. The video conferencing software packages such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet have become tools for educational institutes to shift their operation to online media [5
]. Although video conferencing software provided an immediate solution for educational institutions to continue their operations [6
], various problems have been reported [7
]. One of the critical problems which has been widely reported in the academic literature is related to students’ fatigue, lack of interactivity and motivation, and negative students’ academic performance [8
]. It is argued that students educated during the pandemic will suffer huge academic losses due to participating in online classes, as such classes do not provide learning experiences using sensory organs equivalent to physical classes [9
]. Thus, online classes using current digital technologies have led to students developing fatigue and falling behind in their learning [10
]. However, even though current digital technologies support online classes resulting in a loss in students’ academic performance, it is hard to conclude that the digitalization of education has failed and should not be pursued at all [11
]. It is hypothesized that new emerging digital technologies will provide an enhanced sensory experience to students in online classes, which will help the tutor engage with the students, resulting in a novel learning experience and higher academic performance [12
The emerging new digital technologies, such as mixed reality which is defined as the merging of the physical environment with a computer-generated one [13
], have huge implications for changing both remote and on-site learning [14
]. In remote learning mode, mixed reality would compensate for the loss of learning through the sensory organs by providing a sensory learning experience which is in fact more interactive and enjoyable than on-site classes. It can provide a new learning experience by experimenting with topics and concepts that students often only read about in books but never practice in on-site classes [15
]. Such an enhanced experience of learning can bring a new level of enjoyment to classes, which was completely absent in the online learning mode during the pandemic as well as lacking in physical classroom settings [16
]. Finally, mixed reality-based technologies enhance interactivity during the learning experience [17
]. The mixed reality technologies using features of 3D and advanced graphics do not just give an experience of on-site learning to the students but also help them to engage with elements of experiment within various subjects such as science, mathematics and sociology [18
]. Such enhanced interactivity will help the students understand the science behind every learning lesson in the classroom [19
Further, one of the key outcomes of having learning experiences with mixed reality technology is the satisfaction of students with the content, technology and learning environments [20
]. The satisfaction of students always plays an important role in the learning environment. Satisfied students will be actively involved in the learning activities; in addition, such learning activities will ultimately bring a positive academic performance on the part of students. However, the previous literature does not provide a comprehensive examination of the association between both learning experience and satisfaction [21
]. Therefore, the present research proposes to include satisfaction as an important outcome of novel learning experiences in the research model.
The uses and gratifications theory can be proposed to be the underpinning theory in the present research. The uses and gratifications theory, especially in the context of technology use, postulates that a user’s satisfaction with technology and any consequences (such as students’ academic performance) depends upon the use and gratification of the technology [22
]. Although the uses and gratifications theory has been widely used in various sets of consumer behavior, its underpinning in emerging and new technologies such as mixed reality and the application of such technology in education is limited. Although various studies have been undertaken by employing uses and gratifications in technology education, its use as a unit of analysis is limited in the research [23
]. Thus, a gap in research can be observed, which calls for an analysis of the gratifications of technology within the education sector. The present research attempts to fill such a gap by employing novel student experiences as a source of mixed reality gratification.
Although new emerging technologies such as mixed reality promise to bring radical positive change into the learning experience of students [3
], research, more specifically research of an empirical nature, is lacking in the academic literature. Some previous research has been undertaken in the context of augmented reality; however, very few researchers have attempted to study mixed reality’s impact on the learning experience and students’ academic performance [26
]. Further, empirical evidence on the experiential learning interactivity which mixed reality brings and the students’ perception of enjoyment is also completely missing. Therefore, based on the uses and gratifications theory [26
], the present research has attempted to examine the role of emerging digital technologies, i.e., mixed reality, in deriving students’ novel learning experiences. This learning experience will ultimately lead to higher student academic performance. The present research offers various practical and theoretical implications. The paper is comprised of sections on the literature, research methods, data analysis and the conclusion.
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, mixed reality, robotics, chatbots and extended reality have started to disrupt various aspects of human lives. The field of education has also been affected by these technologies in a dramatic way. The technology of mixed reality promises to bring positive changes in the education sector in various ways, such as the delivery of teaching, development of effective content, diffusion of distance learning and others. Apart from these positive changes, one of the key revolutions it promises to bring is in students’ learning experiences which can enhance their academic performance. The era of the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected student learning all over the world. The public health protective measures required the government to shut down schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutes and such steps virtually suspended learning activities. The digital solution, such as video conferences software packages such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, offered a temporary solution but various problems, such as digital fatigue, lack of interactivity and lack of adequate learning experience, were reported. However, these and other tools introduced the concept of digitalized education worldwide. Therefore, new tools are required that effectively solve problems that have not just emerged in the digitalized educational setting but in the physical or on-site education setting as well. The present research, which aims to fill such an important gap in the literature, has studied the role of mixed reality, a promising technology that can revolutionize education.
The current research attempts to study and investigate the role that mixed reality can play in the educational setting. The present research theorizes three different roles which it can play in the educational setting based upon insights deduced from the literature. These roles include; developing experiential learning methods, enhancing interactivity with learning objects, subjects and environments in both digital and physical classroom settings, and enjoying what can be brought into the experience of learners or students. The research further examined such roles of mixed reality in the development of novel learning experiences, satisfaction and, ultimately, students’ academic performance. The results found that mixed reality embedded experiential learning, interactivity and enjoyment can directly enhance a student’s novel learning experience and indirectly enhance the student’s satisfaction with learning objects and environment.
The present research offers to complement the ongoing efforts of the digitalization of education. The digitalization of education is not just cost-effective, but it also solves some of the basic problems of education, such as access to education in remote areas, making education affordable, accessible and open to every student. Further, technologies such as mixed reality can make education a fun activity in which students can experience concepts and learning points directly. The technology of mixed reality opens new features of making education more enjoyable and interactive in nature. It can improve student satisfaction with the overall educational facilities and infrastructure. Finally, it can enhance students’ academic performance.
7.1. Theoretical Implication
The present research offers two sets of theoretical implications. The theory of uses and gratifications has provided important theoretical guidelines to examine and understand the adoption and diffusion of technology. Most of such research has been undertaken in a commercial setting in which users of technology were consumers. The application of uses and gratifications has been limited in the educational setting in which technology users are not considered consumers but important stakeholders. Thus, the present research offers important empirical evidence on the role of uses and gratifications theory in the educational setting in which users of technology are considered stakeholders. Secondly, the present research confirms the empirical underpinning of uses and gratifications theory in the context of emerging technologies such as mixed reality technologies. Although research is being undertaken on the empirical aspect of mixed reality, the present research is the pioneer in developing empirical evidence on mixed reality use in Saudi Arabia.
7.2. Practical Implication
The present research offers various kinds of policy implications. First, the results of the current research study have provided some valuable evidence which can support the process of the digitalization of education. The present research study contributes to the growing body of literature which highlights the role of technology in enhancing educational experiences. However, it is essential to prioritize pedagogy before technology and consider the study’s findings as additional evidence rather than a call for immediate policy implications to digitalize education. Second, the present research offers conclusions on the role of emerging digital technologies, more specifically mixed reality, and argues that such technologies will play a greater and wider role in the educational setting by enhancing the student learning experience as well as academic performance. Finally, the present research offers policymakers guidelines to focus on the aspect of education that can be targeted with the help of digital technologies, and these include learning experience, satisfaction and students’ academic performance.
Further, mixed reality in education provides various implications for leaders as well. University leaders should prioritize strategic planning by acknowledging that mixed reality may enhance student learning. Educational innovation plans can allocate resources and plan their implementation across disciplines. Secondly, the implementation of mixed reality requires infrastructure and proper investment by university leaders, which would entail proper equipment, software, and networks. By assessing the institution’s technology and infrastructure, leaders can ensure mixed reality is well integrated and utilized. In addition, university administrators should foster partnerships with IT companies, schools, and industry professionals. Sharing ideas, knowledge and innovations can promote mixed reality integration. These connections can help leaders design mixed reality education technologies.
Finally, Saudi Arabia’s distinct cultural and societal factors have an impact on the use of mixed reality technology in its education sector. Recognizing the need to modify technology to conform to regional norms and traditions is crucial for applying these lessons to other nations. The localization of the language used in mixed reality apps in Saudi Arabia should be given priority, and care should be taken to ensure that it is consistent with Arabic, the nation’s official language. Students’ learning experiences will be improved as a result, which will promote higher comprehension and engagement. Additionally, university administrators must aggressively encourage the community’s understanding and acceptance of mixed reality technology. They can promote a good impression of the technology and encourage participation from students, parents and other stakeholders by setting up workshops, seminars and educational campaigns. Collaboration with governmental organizations, business partners and educational institutions may also aid in the exchange of best practices and experiences, resulting in the ongoing development of digital technologies to improve the educational experience of students. These initiatives ought to be directed at developing a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere that welcomes technological innovation and encourages academic performance.
7.3. Limitation and Future Research Recommendations
The present research has various limitations and provides future research recommendations. First, the sample of the present research study was limited to the context of Saudi Arabia. However, future research looking at the wider generalizability to the region of the Middle East should collect samples from other countries in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, who are also actively using these tools and techniques in their education sector. The present research has attempted to employ the survey and structural equation modelling as part of the research design. However, future researchers can include a randomized control trial as the methodology in the research design. Thirdly, new emerging digital technologies such as chatbots and the metaverse can be focused on education by replicating the core concepts espoused in the present research. Finally, other theoretical contexts, such as the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), can also be a focus of future research along with uses and gratifications theory.