Equivalence of using a desktop virtual reality science simulation at home and in class

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The use of virtual laboratories is growing as companies and educational institutions try to expand their reach, cut costs, increase student understanding, and provide more accessible hands on training for future scientists. Many new higher education initiatives outsource lab activities so students now perform them online in a virtual environment rather than in a classroom setting, thereby saving time and money while increasing accessibility. In this paper we explored whether the learning and motivational outcomes of interacting with a desktop virtual reality (VR) science lab simulation on the internet at home are equivalent to interacting with the same simulation in class with teacher supervision. A sample of 112 (76 female) university biology students participated in a between-subjects experimental design, in which participants learned at home or in class from the same virtual laboratory simulation on the topic of microbiology. The home and classroom groups did not differ significantly on post-test learning outcome scores, or on self-report measures of intrinsic motivation or self-efficacy. Furthermore, these conclusions remained after accounting for prior knowledge or goal orientation. In conclusion, the results indicate that virtual simulations are learning activities that students can engage in just as effectively outside of the classroom environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0214944
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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