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Person with virtual reality headset

Preliminary Evaluation of Immersive and Collaborative Virtual Labs in a Structural Engineering Unit of Study

In the last three years, the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sydney has been trialling the use of immersive virtual reality (IVR) in various engineering units of study. The focus of this paper is to present preliminary results of a study that aims to evaluate the effectiveness of immersive virtual reality (IVR) content in supporting student learning of key engineering concepts. Two research assistants independent of the teaching staff used event sampling to observe fourth-year structural engineering students exploring an IVR module during two structured IVR workshops. Inductive content analysis was employed to identify patterns and themes in the data which was collected during observations and to map the relation between observations and student interaction with IVR content. Preliminary results found that the IVR experience varied amongst students in both workshop sessions. The observers also noted limited student-to-student and student-to-teacher communication during the workshops, and inherent hardware and potential software design limitations. Students that verbally communicated with their peers were however generally able to keep pace with each other and complete activities at the same time. These students were more likely to communicate with the teacher in the classroom and less likely to utilise the services of the technical teaching assistants during the session. Furthermore, the practicalities, considerations, and potential improvements to the design of IVR modules and student workshops are discussed.

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