Exploring virtual reality to improve engineering students' spatial abilities pilot study
Document typeConference report
Rights accessOpen Access
A Virtual Reality pilot study is conducted to improve the spatial ability of engineering students based on solid geometry scenarios. The investigation focused on the Graphic Expression and Computer-Aided Design (GECAD) course, specifically on the study of the spatial abilities developed and the assessment of the academic results in the solid geometry module. A total of 20 participants completed three activities (6 h) in an immersive virtual learning environment (IVLE), using head-mounted display (HMD) glasses. Modeling exercises of three-dimensional geometric shapes are proposed, based on concepts of solid geometry. The scenarios are built step by step and the students can regulate the progress between stages while observing the geometric components at the scale and in the point of view they wish. Beyond academic results, the assessment of student improvement is based on spatial abilities tests: the Differential Aptitude Test: Spatial Relations Subset DAT-SR, Purdue Spatial Visualisation Test: Rotations PSVT:R and Mental Cutting Test MCT. Those tests are applied for evaluating different skills: mental folding, mental rotation and section by a plane. In summary, a methodology is proposed developing activities in an (IVLE) with 3D modelling software applied in solid geometry, in order to promote the development of spatial ability (SA). Spatial abilities are measured before and after the classroom activities and looking for correlations between the spatial perception tests (DAT:SR, PSVT:R and MCT) and academic results in solid geometry. In addition, we also wish to determine the students' opinion with regard to the proposed activities. The results obtained confirm the interest in using IVLE to develop spatial abilities in engineering students. Substantial increases of 10,9% in DAT:SR, 8,8 % in PSVT:R and 9,5% in MCT between pre- and post-tests were found. Moreover, the students' opinion of IVLE/HMD activities is positive. The methodology can be summarized in the following steps: 1. Students take the DAT:SR , PSVT:R and MCT prior to the activities. They also answer the survey on other variables that can affect SA (1 h). 2. The students individually complete the exercises with the 3D modelling software SolidWorks (10 h). 3. The IVLE activities consist of the guided reading by the professor of the completed exercise. The professor addresses the concepts of solid geometry used in each step. The students have a few minutes to view with HMD the animation showing the construction of the geometric shape, and once the representation is finished, they can move freely throughout the scenario, using the keyboard options (6 h). 4. Students solve the (DAT:SR, PSVT:R and MCT after the IVLE activities. At the end, the groups answer the satisfaction survey (1 h). 5. All the students are evaluated on their knowledge of the solid geometry contents by means of a test and 3D modelling exercises similar to those done in class and those described in the IVRL (1h). 6. Finally, the analysis of the spatial abilities test data, the controlled variables survey, satisfaction surveys and the academic results obtained in the solid geometry module enable us to examine the correlations and the strongest determining factors in order to obtain good academic results and propose IVLE activities to improve the levels of spatial ability obtained on the tests. This paper describes the exploratory methodology used and its results.
CitationAlpiste, F.; Jordi Torner; Brigos, M. Exploring virtual reality to improve engineering students' spatial abilities pilot study. A: International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. "Edulearn19 proceedings: 1st-3rd July 2019: 11th International Conference on Education and Learning Technologies". 2019, p. 6275-6284.