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  1. The educational applications of extended reality (XR) modalities, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), have increased significantly over the last ten years. Many educators within the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) related degree programs see student benefits that could be derived from bringing these modalities into classrooms, which include but are not limited to: a better understanding of each of the subdisciplines and the coordination necessary between them, visualizing oneself as a professional in AEC, and visualization of difficult concepts to increase engagement, self-efficacy, and learning. These benefits, in turn, help recruitment and retention efforts for these degree programs. However, given the number of technologies available and the fact that they quickly become outdated, there is confusion about the definitions of the different XR modalities and their unique capabilities. This lack of knowledge, combined with limited faculty time and lack of financial resources, can make it overwhelming for educators to choose the right XR modality to accomplish particular educational objectives. There is a lack of guidance in the literature for AEC educators to consider various factors that affect the success of an XR intervention. Grounded in a comprehensive literature review and the educational framework of the Model of Domain Learning, this paper proposes a decision-making framework to help AEC educators select the appropriate technologies, platforms, and devices to use for various educational outcomes (e.g., learning, interest generation, engagement) considering factors such as budget, scalability, space/equipment needs, and the potential benefits and limitations of each XR modality. To this end, a comprehensive review of the literature was performed to decipher various definitions of XR modalities and how they have been previously utilized in AEC Education. The framework was then successfully validated at a summer camp in the School of Building Construction at Georgia Institute of Technology, highlighting the importance of using appropriate XR technologies depending on the educational context.

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  2. Architectural Engineering (AE) programs typically offer programs of study in at least two subdisciplines that relate to building design and construction. AE students may struggle to select a subdiscipline due to their low exposure and engagement with topics that would inform their decision. Previous research indicates that the immersive nature of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) can increase students’ engagement and motivation regarding course content and discipline decisions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a pilot browser-based virtual reality intervention on first-year AE students’ understanding of the AE subdisciplines and choice for future study, with particular attention to demographic subgroup differences. This pilot was a testbed for a larger set of Virtual/Augmented-Reality-Based Discipline Exploration Rotations (VADERs), which are instructional modules that engage students in authentic AE tasks. In Fall 2020, the pilot VADER-1 module was incorporated into first-year AE courses at one R1 university and one R2 historically black university. This module encouraged students to explore AE subdisciplines through the virtual design of a clinic. Pre-post intervention surveys were used to investigate change in students’ understanding of AE and its subdisciplines. Students reported that their subdiscipline understanding increased significantly. Further, 74% of students reported an increase in their confidence in their choice, and over 30% of students changed their top subdiscipline choice. Some slight differences between demographic subgroups were found. VR/AR interventions hold promise for providing AE students with needed exposure to the practice of the discipline and its subdisciplines. 
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  3. This Innovative Practice Full Paper presents findings from the implementation of a virtual reality-based learning module. In the Fall of 2020, a prototype for a novel intervention namely, Virtual/Augmented-Reality-Based Discipline Exploration Rotations (VADERs), was offered as part of the first-year Introduction to Architectural Engineering (AE) classes at two universities. VADERs will ultimately be a collection of modules that are designed to improve student engagement and diversity-awareness by providing interactive virtual explorations of an engineering discipline and its sub-disciplines. VADERs utilize an open source, device-agnostic, and browser-based three-dimensional Virtual Reality (VR) platform, creating unique accessibility, synchronous social affordances, and media asset flexibility. The conjecture explored in this paper is: Having first-year engineering students experience Architectural Engineering and its sub-disciplines through an interactive VADER module, will improve their self-efficacy in regards to their commitment to studying the discipline. A total of 89 students participated in the VADER pilot in Fall 2020. Complete data was collected from 67 of these participants in the form of pre- and post- surveys, and final project deliverables. Results tied to the hypothesis and recommendations for future related work are discussed. 
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