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Melissa A. Schoenlein, Nathaniel Miller, Chris Racey, Simon Smith, Ross Treddinick, Chris Castro, Bas Rokers, Karen B. Schloss; UW Virtual Brain Project: Assessing Benefits of VR Education. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1405. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1405.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Virtual reality (VR) provides exciting avenues to engage students in learning about perceptual systems by providing immersive access to 3D neural structures. However, the educational benefits of VR are unclear. In the UW Virtual Brain ProjectTM, we developed VR lessons on visual and auditory pathways and assessed their effectiveness in controlled laboratory experiments and an undergraduate Perception course. In the laboratory, we compared learning, enjoyment, and ease-of-use when participants completed lessons using two platforms: VR (Oculus Rift) and 2D-monitor. In Experiment 1 (n=60) and a direct replication, Experiment 2 (n=101), pairings between platform, sensory-system (visual/auditory), and testing order were counterbalanced (2 platforms x 2 sensory systems x 2 orders). For each platform, participants completed a pre-test (drawing pathways and identifying structures), a lesson (visual or auditory system), and a post-test (same as pre-test). Finally, participants completed a 7-item survey assessing enjoyment and ease-of-use. Coders naïve to pre/post-test and platform graded the tests. In both experiments, participants showed learning (post-test minus pre-test score, ps<.001), with no significant difference between VR and 2D-monitor lessons (Exp1, p=.118; Exp2, p=.068). The experience questionnaire items reduced to two dimensions (via Principle Components Analysis): “enjoyment” and “ease-of-use.” In both experiments, participants enjoyed VR far more than 2D-monitor lessons (ps<.001). In Experiment 2, VR was easier to use than 2D-monitor (p=.047), with no significant difference in Experiment 1 (p=.392). In the undergraduate course, we integrated visual and auditory VR lessons during lectures. After, students rated how much they thought VR lessons helped advance their progress on course learning outcomes. Students reported moderate to exceptional progress on all learning outcomes, with higher ratings for the outcome most aligned with VR lesson material (p<.001). Thus, VR has potential for innovating classroom education by providing active, enjoyable experiences that help achieve course learning outcomes.
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