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Title: Virtual learning environments and life sciences
Author: Yu, Jian Qing
ISNI:       0000 0001 3576 0729
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2005
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Virtual Reality (VR) involves the presentation of a 3D environment, which is run on a computer or delivered via a network. Users can interact with the Virtual Environments (VE) in real time, with a degree of presence and autonomy. Their use may remove some of the constraints faced in the physical world and afford learners a vehicle to gain and reinforce knowledge of skills based activities. Few VR-based educational applications have concerned themselves with the biology-related experimental field, to allow students to construct basic and important principles. This project investigates the research issues involved in the design and development of virtual simulations, with embedded virtual tutoring agents focussing on laboratory experiments in the immunology modules in Life Sciences. These virtual simulations undergo formative evaluation by the testing of a series of iterative prototypes. This project begins with a set of research aims and by defining the criteria for selecting laboratory experiments that are suitable for VR treatment. Studying existing laboratory tutorials with a domain knowledge expert, the Single Radial Immunodiffusion and the Radio Immunoassay laboratory experiments are chosen for VR simulation. To create advanced applications, existing authoring toolkits and design methodologies have been investigated. This begins with an examination of the essential range of characteristics of potential authoring toolkits. RealiMation 4.4.5 and 3D Studio Max 4 are adopted to create the 3D virtual laboratories because their attributes form the best match with this list of essential characteristics. A user-centred design methodology is chosen, which focuses on users' issues, needs and capabilities in the development of the project. Each virtual simulation consists of a series of 2D and 3D applications to present the different types of learning materials. An important element of the project is the provision of virtual tutoring agents, which can provide students with advice and help in carrying out the virtual experimental exercise, as a tutor would do in a real laboratory. The virtual simulations are iteratively developed by adopting a "design - evaluate - refine" life cycle. Formative evaluation studies have been carried out. The feedback from the participants of these studies is iteratively fed into the next cycle to improve the products until they are acceptable to the target users. Three data collection techniques (questionnaire survey, observation and interview) are used to provide data for analysis of results. However, there are limitations concerned with the techniques provided for interaction with the virtual equipment, and with the computer hardware itself. Design trade-offs are made to counter these limitations. In conclusion, a series of enhanced design guidelines are summarised from the experience of the development of the project for use in developing other VR based software for higher education in relevant areas.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available