NC State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 2683-2687
ISBN: 978-84-09-08619-1
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2019.0717
Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain
In the introductory level biology courses at large public universities it is cost-prohibitive and logistically difficult to take students (n=1200) on field trips to natural habitats where they can experience and learn about ecosystems. Using virtual reality (VR), students can interact with these natural sites without leaving the classroom or their study location. This modality can serve to engage digital learners in a variety of learning activities related to the discovery of biodiversity and the dynamics of an ecosystem. In lieu of physical visits, we have developed a VR temperate forest ecosystem for use in the introductory ecology, evolution, and biodiversity course for majors. Using the expertise from the Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications team for filming 360° video with sound, we were able to create an immersive experience for students. We also filmed live organisms present at each location. Using video editing software, we made video clips of the organisms with narration that we embedded as hotspots on the 360° videos. The goal is for students to “walk” though the ecosystem and find the organisms at each location by following various hints that pop up as they are “walking” throughout an area. The VR ecosystem experience is paired with class activities matched to course learning objectives. Learning objectives include learning specific concepts related to ecosystem dynamics and biodiversity. For example, students list and identify groups of organisms they find and construct a pyramid of productivity. For the purposes of this project, we purchased a class set of VR headsets with DELTA funding. For those students without access to headsets, they may access the VR ecosystem may access via laptop, tablet, or any mobile device. These platforms allow students to engage with the ecosystem and all of its components; but it would not give them the full immersive experience offered through the headsets. In an informal poll of students, about 15 percent of students reported having headsets. Others reported borrowing them from friends or library media loan sites, including Google Cardboard (a cost effective solution). Regardless of the user platform, our goal is to increase student engagement with ecological concepts, enhance biodiversity appreciation, and increase student intrinsic motivation within a real-world setting that allows students to better connect with these ecological topics. As part of this project, future VR ecosystems that are under development include coastal and wetland areas.
Virtual reality, immersive learning experience, active learning, student engagement.