Using Virtual Reality To Enhance Student Engagement In Large Enrollment Distance Courses

Concurrent Session 5
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Brief Abstract

In 2019, Colorado State University Dept. of Biomedical Sciences opened the first large scale VR lab in an educational setting. The lab utilizes BananaVision software developed at CSU, enabling students to interact with a true 3D data set in VR. Due to COVID-19, the lab shipped 100 HP Omen VR capable laptops and HMDs to enable distance learning for undergraduate students for the summer anatomy course. This large-scale remote VR deployment overcame barriers to learning access, while maintaining a high level of student engagement and performance.

Presenters

Paul Martin is the Chief Technologist of the HP XR Business Unit, located in Fort Collins, Colorado. Paul started at HP 35 years ago, working on one of the industry’s first 3D graphics accelerators. Since then he has worked on multiple graphics system architectures including highly-integrated graphics solutions, cloud computing solutions, industry-standard performance benchmarks, virtual workstations, and most recently on VR and AR solutions. Paul has a BSEE from the University of Colorado and an MSEE from Stanford University.

Extended Abstract

In the fall of 2019, Colorado State University (CSU) Dept. of Biomedical Sciences opened the first large scale (100 stations) virtual reality (VR) lab in an educational setting. The lab utilizes BananaVision software developed at CSU, allowing groups of 4 students to interact in virtual reality around a true 3D data set. Data sets include dissectible models of human anatomy as well as numerous volumized CT and MRI scans. Initial informal observations showed students quickly adopting more advanced terminology to accurately describe anatomical structural relationships sooner than what we observed without VR. However, due to COVID-19, the lab had to quickly transition to a distance learning format. We shipped approximately 100 HP Omen VR capable laptops and HMD’s for an undergraduate summer anatomy course. The course enrollment was approximately 80 students, 8 teaching assistants, and 3 faculty members. Major software updates allowed us to accommodate 80 students in a single virtual room as well as breakout lab groups of 4 students. The course aimed to provide students with a state-of-the-art, interactive laboratory taught synchronously using VR. A mixed-methods study was run to assess the effectiveness of the VR course. Data was collected on the effectiveness of the course including student engagement, comfort, learning outcomes, and student understanding and retention of anatomical spatial relationships. Upon evaluation of student success qualitative data suggests that VR promotes engagement and provides unique perspectives of the anatomical content. Quantitative data showed virtual classrooms can maintain the rigor of a traditional in-person labs without negatively impacting student examination scores. This large-scale remote VR deployment provided a high level of accessibility and engagement to learners without compromising student performance, suggesting this is a viable alternative to in-person laboratory course offerings. VR provides a creative solution to overcome barriers to learning access, while maintaining a high level of student engagement and performance.