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Recent Developments In Virtual Reality Based Education

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.369.1 - 1.369.7



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Paper Authors

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John T. Bell

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H. Scott Fogler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3513

Recent Developments in Virtual Reality Based Education

John T. Bell, H. Scott Fogler University of Michigan


A series of virtual reality based educational modules are being developed to explore the capabilities of this emerging technology, and to determine how and where virtual reality can provide the greatest benefits to engineering educators. The most advanced application, Vicher, has been significantly expanded and split into two modules. Student evaluations of a newly developed safety analysis module show great promise, but also the need for further development. Other modules being developed cover topics in atomic crystal structures, fluid flow characteristics, thermodynamic relationships, and four component azeotropic distillation. This paper will describe the latest developments in the ongoing investigation of virtual reality as an educational medium.


Engineering educators are making use of an increasing number of computer simulation packages to aid them in attaining their educational objectives5’7’9”0. The reasons for doing so include the desire to reach , 4 1 students that have alternate learning styles ’ 1, to provide experience based education and to augment . traditional laboratory facilities that are being stretched increasingly thin with growing enrollments Computer simulations also provide students with access to environments that would not otherwise be available to them.

Virtual reality, VR, is an emerging technology that strives to greatly increase the realism of simulations by immersing users deeply within interactive three dimensional computer generated environments. This added realism has great potential to increase the impact and overall effectiveness of educational simulations. VR may also bring previously unconsidered capabilities to engineering education.

However before VR can be effectively applied, it is first necessary to determine its strengths and weaknesses, the situations that are most apt to benefit from VR, and how to employ VR in scientific and technical contexts. In order to investigate some of these issues, a number of VR based educational modules are under development, with the following three main goals:

1. To produce modules with as much practical use to as many students as possible. The educational modules all run on personal computers, and eventual distribution will involve minimal end-user cost.

2. To determine what educational situations will benefit most from virtual reality. A wide variety of topics are being explored to determine where this technology is best suited.

3. To develop techniques for the display of, and interaction with, scientific and technological information and concepts in a virtual world. These techniques can later be applied to practical engineering problems using more advanced equipment than that commonly available to students.

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Bell, J. T., & Fogler, H. S. (1996, June), Recent Developments In Virtual Reality Based Education Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6259

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