A controlled study of virtual reality in first-year magnetostatics

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PubDate: Jul 2019

Teams: The Ohio State University

Writers: Chris D. Porter, Jonathan Brown, Joseph R. Smith, Amber Simmons, Megan Nieberding, Abigail E. Ayers, Chris Orban

PDF: A controlled study of virtual reality in first-year magnetostatics


Stereoscopic virtual reality (VR) has experienced a resurgence due to flagship products such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and smartphone-based VR solutions like Google Cardboard. This is causing the question to resurface: how can stereoscopic VR be useful in instruction, if at all, and what are the pedagogical best practices for its use? To address this, and to continue our work in this sphere, we performed a study of 289 introductory physics students who were sorted into three different treatment types: stereoscopic virtual reality, WebGL simulation, and static 2D images, each designed to provide information about magnetic fields and forces. Students were assessed using preliminary items designed to focus on heavily-3D systems. We report on assessment reliability, and on student performance. Overall, we find that students who used VR did not significantly outperform students using other treatment types. There were significant differences between sexes, as other studies have noted. Dependence on students’ self-reported 3D videogame play was observed, in keeping with previous studies, but this dependence was not restricted to the VR treatment.