Interactive Virtual Environments for Science and Engineering Education

Start Date: 12/31/1969
End Date: 12/31/1969

Immersive virtual environments (VEs) represent a new form of human-computer interface in which users perceive and act using multiple modalities in a simulated three-dimensional environment. During the 1990s, VEs were hailed as the next revolution in computing, and a large number of possible application areas, including education, were suggested. There have been some notable efforts to develop educational VEs, with modest success in improving learning and retention. However, there has not been widespread usage of VE technology in actual classroom or other learning settings.

We propose four principles that will allow the development of effective educational VEs. First, a high level of interactivity is necessary to allow students opportunities for active learning. Second, VE technology should be used as a supplement to other methods of learning. Third, educational VEs should contain many types of information and present links between them. Finally, 3D visualization is most effective when it realistically portrays information that is abstract or normally not visible in the physical world.

We propose to complete our current development of proof-of-concept VEs that educate students in structural engineering, computer networks, and computer graphics. We will integrate those VEs into the curriculum and evaluate their effectiveness. The results of this work will include a set of well-tested educational VE applications, guidelines for designing educational VEs, and principles for deciding when a VE is an appropriate choice for an educational goal. This work will provide real and substantial improvement to the learning environments of many students as well as innovative VE research.

Grant Institution: National Science Foundation

Amount: $74,824

People associated with this grant:

Doug Bowman
Srinidhi Varadarajan