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Volume 24 / Issue 2

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Comparing Learning in Virtual Reality with Learning on a 2D Screen Using Electrostatics Activities

Scott W. Greenwald (MIT Media Lab, USA)

Wiley Corning (MIT Media Lab, USA)

Markus Funk (Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany)

Pattie Maes (MIT Media Lab, USA)

Abstract: Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to overcome natural constraints and present things that would not be visible in the physical world. This makes the medium of VR a powerful tool for learning that allows users to become highly immersed in complex topics. In this paper, we compare a VR learning environment with a traditional 2D learning environment. To investigate the differences between VR and 2D learning environments, we designed two activities that help learners gain an intuitive understanding of concepts from electricity and magnetism.We performed an experiment comparing the learning that took place using these two variant. Although our quantitative learning measures did not reveal a significant difference between 2D and VR, VR was perceived by learners to have advantages.We did find significant quantitative differences in learnersÂ’ completion times. We share findings, based on the quantitative and qualitative feedback received, about what makes VR environments beneficial for learning about complex spatial topics, and propose corresponding design guidelines.

Keywords: 2D vs. VR, learning environments, mixed methods, physics education research, simulation, varied practice, virtual reality (6DoF)

Categories: H.5.m, L.3.6, L.5.0