Teaching and Learning Physics using 3D Virtual Learning Environment (HM6032) Assignment Help

Teaching and Learning Physics using 3D Virtual Learning Environment: A  Case Study of Combined Virtual Reality and Virtual Laboratory in Secondary  School   

Diana Bogusevschi1, Cristina Hava Muntean2 and Gabriel-Miro Muntean1  

1Dublin City University, Ireland  

diana.bogusevschi@dcu.ie, gabriel.muntean@dcu.ie  

2National College of Ireland, Ireland  

cristina.muntean@ncirl.ie  

Abstract:  

A common problem in many schools is the lack of equipment and materials in their science  laboratories due to both limited budget available to the school and high maintenance cost of the lab.  The latest technological advancements provide great opportunities for schools to go over the budget  and cost issues by using 3D virtual learning environments that support simulations and observations  of various experiments. A 3D immersive computer-based Physics educational application that  teaches water cycle in nature and precipitation formation concepts through virtual reality and  experimental virtual laboratory simulations was designed and developed as part of European Horizon  2020 NEWTON Project. The application was employed and evaluated as part of a case study carried  out in a secondary school in Dublin, Ireland. 27 children of age 12-13 years old took part in the study  as part of the experimental group. This paper presents an analysis of the user experience and usability  results of the developed application, showing a high user experience score. The experimental group  students also found the application enjoyable and they would like to take part in such novel-approach  lessons more often.  

Introduction  

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are currently exhibiting diminished  interest from learners, especially after second level education. It is vital to improve their motivation and engagement  in these subjects and encourage pursuit of third level STEM degrees, which are suffering with low university  enrolment rates. This can be achieved by using Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and interactive solutions, which  will engage students in the learning process, will motivate them and will improve their knowledge gain, subsequently  removing the perception that STEM subjects are difficult and increasing their interest in STEM-related careers.  Different technologies have been implemented in the educational sector over the past ten years with the aim to enhance  the method of teaching and learning. Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology with vast potential and great pedagogical  benefits enabling new teaching methods. VR provides an immersive multimedia 3D simulation of real life, supports  interactivity with the created environment and enables sensorial experiences. VR has extremely wide applications  across various subjects, including physics. Virtual Laboratory technology (VL) is also used in education, in particular  for those subjects (e.g. physics, chemistry) that involve running experiments. VL is a highly interactive multimedia  environment that brings learners into a virtual world that allows them to create and to conduct simulated experiments,  and to visualize in a 3D environment the effects of the experiment. This technology helps learners to enhance their  problem solving, computer literacy and practical skills, which are considered important skills for lifelong learning, in  an enjoyable way. Benefits of using VL technology in teaching Science are: the experimental activities are completed  quicker than in a real word experiment, the same experiment can be run multiple times at no extra cost for materials;  it allows for easy observation of the experiment at a time suitable to the learner; and encourages collaboration and  communication between teachers and students.  

The research work presented in this paper is part of the EU Horizon 2020 NEWTON project that focuses on  design, development and deployment of TEL innovative educational solutions for all levels of education, starting from  primary to third degree institutions hosted on its learning management system, NEWTON TEL Platform (NEWTELP).  NEWTON Project’s innovative technologies include Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) (Bogusevschi,  et al., 2018), (Bogusevschi, Bratu, Ghergulescu, Muntean, & Muntean, April 2018), Virtual Teaching and Learning  Laboratory (Lynch & Ghergulescu, July 2017a), (Ghergulescu, et al., 2018), Fabrication Labs (Fab Labs) (Togou, 

Lorenzo, Lorenzo, Cornetta, & Muntean, July 2018), adaptive and personalised multimedia and multiple sensorial  media (mulsemedia) (Zou, Trestian, & Muntean, 2018), (Bi, et al., 2018), (Moldovan & Muntean, June 2017),  personalisation and gamification (El Mawas, Ghergulescu, Moldovan, & Muntean, 2018), (Playfoot, De Nicola, & Di  Salvadore, March 2017), (Lynch & Ghergulescu, July 2017b), interactive educational computer-based video games,  (El Mawas, et al., 2018). Different innovative pedagogical approaches are also deployed as part of the teaching and  learning process such as flipped classroom, game-based and problem-based learning (Muntean, Andrews, & Muntean,  July 2017), (Zhao, Chis, Muntean, & Muntean, 2018), (Muntean, El Mawas, Bradford, & Pathak, 2018), (El Mawas,  Bradford, Andrews, Pathak, & Hava Muntean, 2018), (Chis, Moldovan, Murphy, Pathak, & Muntean, 2018).  

NEWTON Project’s TEL learning management platform, NEWTELP, is supporting both teachers and  learners with the goal to increase learner quality of experience, where teachers can easily add various interactive  content to their lessons and assess its benefits in both learner experience and knowledge gain. A multitude of Small  and Large-Scale educational TEL pilots have and are currently being carried out in different European schools and  universities, assessing knowledge acquisition benefits, learner experience, learners interest in STEM subjects,  platform usability and teachers feedback following the use NEWTON’s innovative solutions.  

This paper expands on the use of the NEWTON Project 3D immersive Water Cycle in Nature application as  part of a cases study from the learner experience point of view in addition to previously presented knowledge gain  (Bogusevschi, et al., 2018). The computer-based VR and VL application focuses on physics terminology which is part  of the natural water cycle and precipitation formation, including vaporisation, evaporation, boiling and condensation.  The presented case study was employed in Belvedere College, Dublin, Ireland, where one class was appointed as the  experimental group interacting with the NEWTON application. Learner experience and application usability when  interacting with the Water Cycle in Nature application was assessed.  

This paper is organised as follows. Next section introduces the theoretical background of the study and  describes research work on innovative technologies such as AR, VR, VL, Smart Glasses and Kinect applied in  secondary school STEM education, with a focus on Physics topics. This is followed by the Water Cycle in Nature application description, including the overview of the case study and its results analysis. The observed conclusions  and future plans are summarised in the last section of this paper.  

Related Work  

Various innovative TEL methods are currently employed in secondary level institution in order to increase  students’ engagement and interest in STEM subjects. VR is a very popular technology allowing visualisation of  various phenomena and concepts enabling students to better grasp complex terminology definitions. For example, its  benefits on learners’ attitudes toward mathematics and design activities are investigated in (Simsek, 2016) on 28  secondary school third class students, showing increased positive attitudes and interest in mathematics for the  experimental group. Another positive example of VR use, specifically in geometry secondary school teaching, is  presented in (Guerrero, Ayala, Mateu, Casades, & Alamán, 2016), where mixed reality technology created by  combining tangible interfaces and virtual worlds (Mateu, Lasala, & Alaman, 2014) allowed a more meaningful  learning ensuring a higher grade of knowledge retention. VR can also play an important role in VLs (Heradio, et al.,  2016), which allow visualising various experiments in subjects such as Physics or Chemistry when certain facilities  are not available. It needs to be noted that the use of VL has been shown to provide a similar or increased level on  knowledge compared to traditional labs (Brinson, 2015).  

Another prominent innovative technology employed in STEM secondary school subjects is AR. It is another  tool that allows students to better understand difficult topics (Yoon, Anderson, Lin, & Elinich, 2017). In  (Wojciechowski & Cellary, 2013) an AR e-learning system for teachers to create AR learning scenes is evaluated on  second grade students of a secondary school, exhibiting benefits in terms of enjoyment students displayed during the  experimental lessons specialising in chemistry. The benefits of AR were also investigated on 65 12th grade secondary  school students when teaching physics, specifically electromagnetism (Ibáñez, Di Serio, Villarán, & Delgado Kloos,  2014), showing a higher level of concentration for the experimental group students with a higher knowledge  improvement compared to the control group. The use of AR in Physics lessons was also presented in (Cai, Chiang,  Sun, Lin, & Lee, 2017), focusing on magnetic field teaching, showing higher knowledge gain scores and improved  attitude in the experimental class students. The beneficial effect of AR technology in chemistry teaching was noted in  (Cai, Wang, & Chiang, A case study of Augmented Reality simulation system application in a chemistry course,  2014), especially on low achieving students.  

The latest research looked at the use of smartphones, Tablets and Smart Glasses in secondary STEM  education. Hochberg at al. (Hochberg, Kuhn, & Müller, 2018), focused on mechanics, and results have shown that 

experimental group expressed an improved level of interest and curiosity in the subject when using a smartphone.  However, no difference in knowledge acquisition was observed between the classic approach and the experimental  one. A Physics app focused on principles behind a pendulum was employed on table PCs and smartphones in (Purba  & Hwang, 2017) showing major benefits of visual aids, such as graphs, in scientific learning. Computer simulations  were also shown to provide higher knowledge gain in Physics learning compared to traditional methods in  (Sarabandoa, Cravinob, & Soares, 2014).  

Kuhn investigated the use of Google Smart Glasses when learning Physics concepts (Kuhn, et al., 2016).  Results have shown increased curiosity levels when learning physics experiments, but had the same effect on  knowledge gain as when using the same platform on tablet PCs.  

Kinect technology is another TEL method in STEM education studies. For example, in (Anderson & Wall,  2016) the use of this technology is seen as an important supporting tool in learning kinematics in Physics. A curious  example in benefits of innovative technology enhanced experimental Physics learning is investigated in a theme park  in (Tho, Chan, & Yeung, 2015).  

As Physics involve the study of universal law and the behaviours and relationship among a wide range of  physical concepts and phenomena, experiments play a very important role in the teaching and learning process. A  common problem faced by many secondary schools is the lack of equipment and materials in their Physics laboratory  due to both limited budget available to the school and high maintenance cost of the lab. However, the latest  technological advancements such as VR, AR, VL, Smart Glasses, Kinect and smartphone provide now great  opportunities for schools to make use of low cost 3D virtual learning environments that support simulations and  observations of various experiments. These virtual learning environments allows students to experiment without  limitations of space or time and they are available all year, even from home.  

Water Cycle in Nature Application Description  

The Water Cycle in Nature application is an interactive 3D immersive computer-based Physics educational  application that combines VL and VR technologies developed by NEWTON Project Consortium Partner, SIVECO  from Bucharest, Romania. The educational content is integrated into the VL-VR environment, where the learner is  exploring an immersive multimedia 3D simulation of a Nature setting environment and a Laboratory setting  environment. The Nature setting provides a description of the natural water cycle definitions, such as vaporisation,  evaporation, boiling and condensation and examples of these phenomena occurring in nature, as seen in Figure 1 (a).  The Water Cycle in Nature application Laboratory setting aims to provide more detail about the definitions presented  in the Nature environment, showing examples of these phenomena in a laboratory or even domestic setting, presented  in Figure 1 (b). To progress through the application, learners need to follow instruction presented in both audio and  text formats, as well as sign language for learners with special educational needs, specifically hearing impairment.  The definitions presented in the Nature setting are matched with virtual experiments in the Laboratory setting, in order  to clarify and ingrain all presented educational content.  

     a) Nature VR Environment b)                             b) Experimental VL Environment 

Figure 1. NEWTON Project

Figure 1. NEWTON Project Water Cycle in Nature Application 

The steps followed during the design and development of the Water Cycle in Nature were similar to (Paquette,  Léonard, Lundgren-Cayrol, Mihaila, & Gareau, 2006) and (Marfisi, George, & Tarpin-Bernard, 2010) and include:  Pedagogical Objectives’ Specification, Application model, Overall sketch of scenario, virtual laboratory and nature  environments, Software components, Detailed description of scenario, virtual laboratory and nature environments,  Development of educational content (text and audio-track), Development of Learner Satisfaction assessment,  Pedagogical quality control and Application dissemination. Details regarding the application design methodology  were provided in (Bogusevschi, et al., 2018).  

The application was developed with advice and input on educational content from teachers, and it follows the  curriculum and meets the expected learning outcomes.  

Case Study Description 

Evaluation Methodology  

The Water Cycle in Nature application was employed and evaluated as part of a case study carried out in a secondary  school in Dublin, Ireland. Prior to carrying out the study, ethics approval was obtained from the Dublin City University  Ethics Committee and this study meets all ethics requirements. All forms provided to teachers, learners and parents  during the case study are listed in Table 1.  

Document/From 

Experimental Group 

Ethics Approval 

✔

Consent Form (signed by parents) 

✔

Assent Form (signed by students) 

✔

Data Management Plan 

✔

Plain language statement 

✔

Table 1. NEWTON Project Water Cycle in Nature application documentation  

The case study presented in this paper involves the experimental group of learners and contains several steps,  as described in Table 2. The experimental class interacted with the Water Cycle in Nature application and the purpose  of this paper is to describe the Learner Satisfaction Questionnaire experimental group results, as it has been previously  shown that the application succeeded to provide a statistically significant higher knowledge gain for the experimental  group compared to the control group (Bogusevschi, et al., 2018).  

 

Activity 

Experimental Group 

Activity 1: Knowledge Pre-test 

✔

Activity 2: NEWTON project Approach (Water Cycle in Nature application) 

✔

Activity 3: Learner Satisfaction Questionnaire 

✔

Activity 4: Knowledge Post-test 

✔

 

Table 2. NEWTON project Water Cycle in Nature application case study activities  

Participants  

The case study presented in this paper was carried out in the Belvedere College Secondary School from  Dublin, Ireland, where students of one first year class participated as the experimental group (N = 27), with ages  between 12 and 13 years.  

Data Collection  

During the experimental group lesson, the Water Cycle in Nature application was visualised by students on  the computer lab PCs, where each participating student had access to a PC. The experimental group teacher supervised  the lesson and assisted students in providing directions of use. 

The Learner Satisfaction Questionnaire (LSQ) was provided to the experimental class and contained the following  questions:  

1. The video game and the experiments that I did in the lab from the video (this is called a virtual lab!) helped  me to better understand vaporisation and condensation processes.  

2. The video game and the experiments that I did in the virtual lab helped me to learn easier about the  vaporisation and condensation processes.  

3. I enjoyed this lesson that included the video game and the experiments in the virtual lab.  4. The experiments that I did in the virtual lab made the lesson more practical.  

5. The video game distracted me from learning.  

6. I would like to have more lessons that include video games and doing experiments in virtual labs.  7. Comments/Suggestions.  

The LSQ answers for Question 1 to Question 6 were on a 5-level Likert scale, ranging from strongly agree to  strongly disagree and standard emojis were used.  

Results  

User Experience  

When evaluating user experience, questions 1 to 6 (Q1 to Q6) described in the Data Collection Section were  investigated. Table 3 presents the obtained answers for the 5-level Likert scale – Strongly Agree (SA), Agree (A),  Neutral (N), Disagree (D) and Strongly Disagree (D), showing a good user experience. It was noticed that over 74%  of students found the Water Cycle in Nature application helpful in better understanding vaporisation and condensation  (Q1). Approximately 67% of students believed the application helped them to learn easier about the topics at hand  (Q2) and over 74% of students enjoyed the NEWTON project approach. Over half of experimental group students  thought the application made the lesson more practical (Q4) and over 70% of students would like to have more lessons  using the NEWTON project approach (Q6). Less than 15% of students believed the Water Cycle in Nature application  distracted them from learning (Q5).  

 

 

SA 

SD 

 

No. of  

Students 

No. of  

Students 

No. of  

Students 

No. of  

Students 

No. of  

Students 

Q1 

11.11 

17 

62.96 

25.93 

0.00 

0.00 

Q2 

7.41 

16 

59.26 

25.93 

7.41 

0.00 

Q3 

10 

37.04 

10 

37.04 

18.52 

7.41 

0.00 

Q4 

14.81 

11 

40.74 

33.33 

11.11 

0.00 

Q5 

0.00 

14.81 

10 

37.04 

10 

37.04 

11.11 

Q6 

11 

40.74 

29.63 

25.93 

0.00 

3.70 


Table 3. Experimental group Learner Satisfaction Questionnaire, Questions 1 to 6 

Usability  

The usability of the application was assessed based on learner satisfaction questionnaire answers to Question  7 (Comments/Suggestions). As this question was optional, 14 experimental group students chose to provide no  feedback. The remaining 13 students (48%) provided mostly positive feedback regarding the overall applications, with  comments including: “I would like to have more classes like this” and “Enjoyable”. Three students provided negative  feedback regarding the audio-track, commenting that a “more enthusiastic voice-over” would be welcome. This was  taken on-board and the application was modified addressing the obtained comments for all future use.

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Conclusions  

The research work presented in this paper, part of the Horizon 2020 NEWTON Project describes the Water  Cycle in Nature computer-based VR-VL application for teaching Physic concepts. A description of the application  and its educational content focusing on natural phenomena participating in precipitation formation are provided. A  case study run in a secondary school investigated the usability of the VR – VL simulation application as a learning  environment and its effects on user experience. Feedback on the application and technologies used were collected  through a Learner Satisfaction Questionnaire. Together with the previously presented statistically significant  knowledge gain obtained by the experimental group when using the application, compared to the control group  (Bogusevschi, et al., 2018), it was also shown to provide students a good learning experience, as over 74% of students  enjoyed learning using the Water Cycle in Nature application. Following the participating students’ feedback, the  application was improved for future small and large-scale pilots. The Water Cycle in Nature application is part of a  large-scale pilot in various European countries (Ireland, Slovakia and Romania) as part of the Earth Course that is  provided to students using multiple NEWTON project technologies (Bogusevschi, Muntean, Gorji, & Muntean, 2018)  hosted on the NEWTON Project platform – NEWTELP.  

Acknowledgements  

This research is supported by the NEWTON project (http://www.newtonproject.eu/) funded under the  European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, Grant Agreement no. 688503. Many thanks to  Mr. David O’Grady and the Belvedere College, Dublin for the support in this small-scale NEWTON project pilot.