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Title: Virtual Reality Laboratory Experiences for Electricity and Magnetism Courses
A solid understanding of electromagnetic (E&M) theory is key to the education of electrical engineering students. However, these concepts are notoriously challenging for students to learn, due to the difficulty in grasping abstract concepts such as the electric force as an invisible force that is acting at a distance, or how electromagnetic radiation is permeating and propagating in space. Building physical intuition to manipulate these abstractions requires means to visualize them in a three-dimensional space. This project involves the development of 3D visualizations of abstract E&M concepts in Virtual Reality (VR), in an immersive, exploratory, and engaging environment. VR provides the means of exploration, to construct visuals and manipulable objects to represent knowledge. This leads to a constructivist way of learning, in the sense that students are allowed to build their own knowledge from meaningful experiences. In addition, the VR labs replace the cost of hands-on labs, by recreating the experiments and experiences on Virtual Reality platforms. The development of the VR labs for E&M courses involves four distinct phases: (I) Lab Design, (II) Experience Design, (III) Software Development, and (IV) User Testing. During phase I, the learning goals and possible outcomes are clearly defined, to provide context for the VR laboratory more » experience, and to identify possible technical constraints pertaining to the specific laboratory exercise. During stage II, the environment (the world) the player (user) will experience is designed, along with the foundational elements, such as ways of navigation, key actions, and immersion elements. During stage III, the software is generated as part of the course projects for the Virtual Reality course taught in the Computer Science Department at the same university, or as part of independent research projects involving engineering students. This reflects the strong educational impact of this project, as it allows students to contribute to the educational experiences of their peers. During phase IV, the VR experiences are played by different types of audiences that fit the player type. The team collects feedback and if needed, implements changes. The pilot VR Lab, introduced as an additional instructional tool for the E&M course during the Fall 2019, engaged over 100 students in the program, where in addition to the regular lectures, students attended one hour per week in the E&M VR lab. Student competencies around conceptual understanding of electromagnetism topics are measured via formative and summative assessments. To evaluate the effectiveness of VR learning, each lab is followed by a 10-minute multiple-choice test, designed to measure conceptual understanding of the various topics, rather than the ability to simply manipulate equations. This paper discusses the implementation and the pedagogy of the Virtual Reality laboratory experiences to visualize concepts in E&M, with examples for specific labs, as well as challenges, and student feedback with the new approach. We will also discuss the integration of the 3D visualizations into lab exercises, and the design of the student assessment tools used to assess the knowledge gain when the VR technology is employed. « less
Authors:
Award ID(s):
1945573
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10318170
Journal Name:
2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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