Structured evaluation of training in virtual environments
Virtual Environments (VEs) created through Virtual Reality (VR) technologies have been suggested as potentially beneficial for a number of applications. However a review of VEs and VR has highlighted the main barriers to implementation as: current technological limitations; usability issues with various systems; a lack of real applications; and therefore little proven value of use. These barriers suggest that industry would benefit from some structured guidance for developing effective VEs. To examine this ‘training’ was chosen to be explored, as it has been suggested as a potential early use of VEs and is of importance to many sectors. A review of existing case studies on VE training applications (VETs) examined type of training applications and VR systems being considered; state of development of these applications and results of any evaluation studies. In light of these case studies, it was possible to focus this work on the structured evaluation of training psycho-motor skills using VEs created by desktop VR. In order to perform structured evaluation, existing theories of training and evaluation were also reviewed. Using these theories, a framework for developing VETs was suggested. Applying this framework, two VETs were proposed, specified, developed and evaluated. Conclusions of this work highlighted the many areas in the development process of an effective VET that still need addressing. In particular, in the proposal stage, it is necessary to provide some guidance on the appropriateness of VET for particular tasks. In the specification and building stages, standard formats and techniques are required in order to guide the VE developer(s) in producing an effective VET. Finally in the evaluation stage, there are still tools required that highlight the benefits of VET and many more evaluation studies needed to contribute information back to the development process. Therefore VEs are still in their early stages and this work unifies existing work in the area specifically on training and highlights the gaps that need to be addressed before widespread implementation.