Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

5-31-2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)

Department

Informatics

First Advisor

Michael J. Lee

Second Advisor

Margarita Vinnikov

Third Advisor

Frank Biocca

Fourth Advisor

Salam Daher

Fifth Advisor

Hyejin Hannah Kum-Biocca

Abstract

The emerging technologies of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) may have vast implications to societal communication and representation of information. AR/VR computer interfaces are unique in that they may be placed spatially around the user in three-dimensional (3D) space; this affords new methods of both presentation and user interaction with the target information.

This may be especially impactful in the education of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Prior research has shown that simulations and visualizations improve the performance of STEM learners compared to live instruction and textbook reading. Yet, research into AR/VR as a learning environment for widespread educational applications remains limited.

To address this research gap, this dissertation examines a fundamental AR/VR interface capability, the ability for the user to traverse a virtual environment, and its impact on learning. The first study of the dissertation compares the performanceof STEM learners within a physical and a virtual learning environment, both non-traversable. Evidence from this study suggests that a non-traversable AR/VR interface others comparable learning efficacy to a traditional physical environment.

The second study of the dissertation compares the performance of STEM learners in a non-traversable physical environment against STEM learners in a traversable virtual environment. Similar to the first study, evidence from this study suggests that instructional delivery in a virtual environment with a traversable AR/VR interface offers comparable learning efficacy to a physical environment.

The first two studies of the dissertation suggest that AR/VR computer interfaces, both with and without user traversal, offer comparable learning efficacy to their physical environmental equivalents. The final study of the dissertation compares the performance of STEM learners using the same virtual environment, but alters the traversal ability between the two groups. Evidence from the third study suggests that altering the user traversal of an AR/VR interface did positively impact its learning efficacy. This dissertation offers evidence that AR/VR technologies, with and without user traversal, are suitable STEM learning environments. Additionally, AR/VR technologies provide higher levels of traversal capabilities which may serve to increase learning performance.

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