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  1. Researchers have looked into ways to make computer science assignments more engaging, practical, and beneficial to students to improve learning outcomes by increasing student appeal. Offering a pool of assignments and allowing students to choose their preferred assignments is considered as a potential method for improving learning outcomes. In this paper, we investigate the effect of context choice for assignments in an object-oriented programming course that covers various topics such as object-oriented programming concepts, database design and implementation, graphical user interface design, and web application development. Students complete three immersive simulation-based learning (ISBL) modules as course assignments. ISBL modules involve technology-enhanced problem-based learning where the problem context is represented via a three-dimensional (3D), animated discrete-event simulation model that resembles a real-world system or context, in this case, we have three simulated systems/contexts around which ISBL assignments are defined: an airport, a manufacturing system, and a hospital emergency department. The research experiments involve four groups: (1) students with no choice who use the same assigned simulated system for all three ISBL assignments; (2) students with no choice who are given a different simulated system for each ISBL assignment; (3) students who can choose their preferred simulated system at the beginning but cannot change their choice for future assignments; and, (4) students who can choose at the beginning and switch between the three simulated systems for subsequent assignments. Data are collected over multiple semesters and statistical analyses are conducted to compare the four groups in terms of motivation, experiential learning, and self assessment of learning. We also conduct qualitative assessments in the form of interviews to support and explain our statistical results. 
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  2. In educational research, user-simulation interaction is gaining importance as it provides key insights into the effectiveness of simulation-based learning and immersive technologies. A common approach to study user-simulation interaction involves manually analyzing participant interaction in real-time or via video recordings, which is a tedious process. Surveys/questionnaires are also commonly used but are open to subjectivity and only provide qualitative data. The tool proposed in this paper, which we call Environmental Detection for User-Simulation Interaction Measurement (EDUSIM), is a publicly available video analytics tool that receives screen-recorded video input from participants interacting with a simulated environment and outputs statistical data related to time spent in pre-defined areas of interest within the simulation model. The proposed tool utilizes machine learning, namely multi-classification Convolutional Neural Networks, to provide an efficient, automated process for extracting such navigation data. EDUSIM also implements a binary classification model to flag imperfect input video data such as video frames that are outside the specified simulation environment. To assess the efficacy of the tool, we implement a set of immersive simulation-based learning (ISBL) modules in an undergraduate database course, where learners record their screens as they interact with a simulation to complete their ISBL assignments. We then use the EDUSIM tool to analyze the videos collected and compare the tool’s outputs with the expected results obtained by manually analyzing the videos. 
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  3. We propose and assess the effectiveness of novel immersive simulation-based learning (ISBL) modules for teaching and learning engineering economy concepts. The proposed intervention involves technology-enhanced problem-based learning where the problem context is represented via a three-dimensional (3D), animated discrete-event simulation model that resembles a real-world system or situation that students may encounter in future professional settings. Students can navigate the simulated environment in both low- and high-immersion modes (i.e., on a typical personal computer or via a virtual reality headset). The simulation helps contextualize and visualize the problem setting, allowing students to observe and understand the underlying dynamics, collect relevant data/information, evaluate the effect of changes on the system, and learn by doing. The proposed ISBL approach is supported by multiple pedagogical and psychological theories, namely the information processing approach to learning theory, constructivism theory, self-determination theory, and adult learning theory. We design and implement a set of ISBL modules in an introductory undergraduate engineering economy class. The research experiments involve two groups of students: a control group and an intervention group. Students in the control group complete a set of traditional assignments, while the intervention group uses ISBL modules. We use well-established survey instruments to collect data on demographics, prior preparation, motivation, experiential learning, engineering identity, and self-assessment of learning objectives based on Bloom’s taxonomy. Statistical analysis of the results suggests that ISBL enhances certain dimensions related to motivation and experiential learning, namely relevance, confidence, and utility. We also provide a qualitative assessment of the proposed intervention based on detailed, one-on-one user testing and evaluation interviews. 
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