Teamwork in virtual environments
: an empirical investigation of the effects of immersion, presence, and psychological fidelity in synthetic team training

  • Beáta-Noémi Bálint

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Teams are ubiquitous in today’s organisations, though for them to be effective their members must engage in both teamwork and taskwork. Particularly in the case of High Reliability Organisations, such as the military, it is critical that team members possess teamwork specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Team training interventions delivered through virtual environments have been shown to have a positive effect on team performance, as well as present several benefits compared to traditional training methods. Furthermore, with the increased availability of consumer-level Head Mounted Displays, there is a growing interest in adopting these for training teams. However, research so far has failed to demonstrate consistently that a training benefit exists in the case of the more expensive Head Mounted Display-based Virtual Reality systems over the more established desktop-based training.
A common limitation of studies in this area is that they focus on the system as a whole, thus it is difficult to isolate particular features that might have influenced the results. A number of environmental, organisational and operational factors are known to be either inputs or moderators in the process of training teamwork. However, research is needed to ascertain whether features endogenous to virtual environments can also influence teamwork processes. Based on a semi-systematic review of the literature, three features were chosen as the focus of this research based on their saturation and relative importance in these frameworks and empirical studies, as well as often being suggested to affect both task performance and teamwork; immersion, presence, and psychological fidelity.
An initial theoretical model of Team Training in Virtual Environments was proposed based on existing models of real-world teamwork, virtual teamwork, and training transfer. This was further adapted, with potential moderating features of virtual environments identified and used as the conceptual framework, for two empirical studies. An exploratory pilot study was conducted to ascertain potential relationships in the variables of interest. It was clear that in addition to prior task training, system interface training (familiarity) is a key prerequisite. Following this, the confirmatory study, which was conducted virtually, used expert task and interface users. Collectively, the findings from these studies informed the ‘empirically corrected’ model of Team Training in Virtual Environments, highlighting further moderating endogenous features, as well as a number of areas that require further research.
This research will benefit both practitioners and scholars in the area of team training in virtual environments. On one hand, it will help practitioners make informed design decisions for optimising virtual environments for the training of teamwork, by providing a set of design guidelines based on the findings of this research. On the other, it will provide scholars with a framework for future studies in this area, as well as guidance on fully virtual studies and their limitations.
Date of AwardNov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorBrett Stevens (Supervisor), Neil Dansey (Supervisor) & Tom Garner (Supervisor)

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