New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Computers in Education
This paper shows the early research findings of utilizing a virtual reality environment as an educational tool for the operation of a computerized numerical control (CNC) milling machine. Based off of a previous work, the Advanced Virtual Machining Lab (AVML), this project features a virtual environment in which a virtual CNC machine is fully operable, designed to allow STEM students and training professionals to learn the use of the CNC machine without the need to be in a physical lab. Users operate in the virtual environment using an immersive virtual reality headset (i.e. Oculus Rift) and standard input devices (i.e. mouse and keyboard), both of which combined make for easy movement and realistic visuals. On-screen tutorials allow users to learn about what they need to do to operate the machine without the need for outside instruction. While designing and perfecting this environment has been the primary focus of this project thus far, the research goal is to test the ease of use and the pedagogical effectiveness of the immersive technology as it relates to education in STEM fields.
Initial usability studies for this environment featured students from the graduate level CAD/CAM-Theory and Advanced Applications (ME 54600) course at IUPUI. Results from the study were tabulated with a survey using a four-point Likert scale and several open-ended questions. Findings from the survey indicate that the majority of users found the environment realistic and easy to navigate, in addition to finding the immersive technology to be beneficial. Many also indicated that they felt comfortable navigating the environment without the need for additional assistance from the survey proctors. Full details on the first usability study, including data and discussion, can be found in this paper. The general consensus from the study was that, while some features needed refinement, the immersive environment helped them learn about the operation of a CNC machine. Additional usability studies will need to be undergone to refine said features before beginning the final study, in which students learning from the immersive virtual environment will be tested against students learning from traditional methods. Details on this last study will be discussed in the final paper, which will also discuss the methods used for preparing the environment, full results and detailed discussion on each of the usability studies, and conclusions on the usability and educational effectiveness of the immersive virtual reality technology in STEM education.
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