This research synthesizes existing research findings that social presence (sense of connection with others) and physical presence (sense of being there) increase learning outcomes in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) with findings that traditional motion tracking of participants wearing head mounted displays in virtual reality increases both physical and social presence. This information suggests that motion tracking in mixed reality VLEs has a positive impact on social presence and on physical presence. For this study, the affordance of free movement among virtual objects is enabled by Microsoft Kinect tracking of the user's position that is translated to movement of the virtual camera to simulate user movement and proximity to elements of the virtual environment. This study used a mixed method, multimodal approach including qualitative, subjective, objective, and physiological data to measure social and physical presence. The testbed for this research was TLE TeachLivE™, a mixed reality classroom populated with virtual students. The subjective measures are 1) modified Witmer and Singer Questionnaire and 2) Social Presence Instrument (Bailenson, 2002b). The objective measure is a literature based Social Presence Behavioral Coding sheet used to record frequency of occurrences of factors of social presence. Finally, the physiological measure is heart rate as recorded by the MIO Alpha. The primary contribution of this study was that the hypotheses that the affordance of movement in a mixed reality classroom has a positive impact on user perception and experience of a) physical presence and b) social presence in a VLE were supported. This hypothesis was supported in all three measures. The secondary contribution of this research is the literature based Social Presence Behavioral Coding. The final contribution of this research is a research framework that integrates subjective, objective, and physiological measures of social presence in one study. This approach can be applied to various user experience research studies of various VLEs. Finally, in addition to general alignment of the physiological, objective, and subjective measures, there were anecdotal instances of factors of social presence occurring simultaneously with increased heart rate.


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Graduation Date





Hughes, Charles


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Modeling and Simulation; Engineering









Release Date

February 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Engineering Commons