Using head mounted display virtual reality simulations in large engineering classes: Operating vs observing
Keywords:virtual reality, engineering education, safety in design, work-integrated learning, active learning
A barrier to using head mounted display (HMD) virtual reality (VR) in education is access to hardware for large classes. This paper compares students’ learning when engaging with an HMD VR simulation as the operator and as the observer, to evaluate whether benefits of HMD VR can be achieved without requiring all students to operate the equipment. Postgraduate engineering students (N = 117) completed a safety hazard identification exercise in a workshop. The performance of students who operated and observed was compared. Results showed that students performed similarly in the exercise that followed the simulation whether they operated HMD VR (n = 33) or observed (n = 84). The finding suggests that educators may be able to use HMD VR simulations in classes with a large enrolment, by reducing the need for investment and management of a large number of sets of HMD VR equipment.
Implications for practice or policy:
- Engineering educators can use HMD VR simulations to teach students about safety in design.
- Engineering students are able to identify safety hazards in a HMD VR simulation effectively whether they are operating the equipment or observing another student in their group operating the VR equipment.
- One HMD VR set per student group is sufficient.
- HMD VR simulations can be used inclusively, even when some students are unable or unwilling to wear the headset.
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