The use of a virtual environment in the education of engineering students
This study explores die educational value of using duree-dimension (3D) interactive technology in a virtual reality (VR) environment to augment the learning of engineering students at the polytechnic level in Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. The virtual environment (VE) consists of a factory floor with different planning tools and machines which students need to interact with to achieve an optimum production rate. Forty second- year engineering students opting for the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) third year elective were used as subjects. They were separated into two groups of twenty students. The second-year examination results from these two groups of students showed that there was no statistical difference between them, implying that both groups of students had similar initial knowledge. The VR augmentation group used a combined lecture/tutorial format to cover theories of the subject and used die VE as a learning tool to further improve their understanding by solving problems. The traditional instruction group used course notes, tutorial work sheets and teacher-led discussions. The instruments used include a post-test to measure performance, a survey questionnaire consisting of thirty-three 4-point Likert Scale questions, three essay questions, one ranking question and a final concept map type of question. This was followed by an interview to provide a deeper understanding of the use of VR in augmenting the learning process by probing for further details. Results in die post-test indicated that there was no significant difference in the score obtained by students undergoing VR augmentation and the traditional group (p=0.167, d=0.44). However, it was noted that the mean for every question was consistently higher for the VR augmented group. A more detailed analysis showed that for questions relating to problem solving, there was statistical significance (p=0.038, d=0.68) between the scores from the VR augmented group scores and the traditional group. Analysis of inputs from the survey questionnaire and the interview led to a further understanding of the learning aspects of VR, namely the features, learner characteristics, interactive experience, learning experience and the learning itself. This consequently led to an enhanced model of learning in VR.