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Understanding Learner’s Mental Models of a Task as Shaped by the Physical Fidelity of a Learning Environment

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Effective Use of Technology in Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Myrtede Christie Alfred Clemson University

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Myrtede C. Alfred is a PhD student in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the Clemson University. She received her M.S in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University in 2013 and a BBA in Human Resources Management from Florida International University in 2009. She is graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Industrial Engineering. She is also a Southern Regional Education Board Fellow and Clemson University Diversity Fellow. Her research focuses on the use of virtual reality in facilitating learning in online environments.

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Morris Branchell Lee III


David M. Neyens Clemson University

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David M. Neyens, PhD MPH, is an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Clemson University. He received his PhD in industrial engineering from the University of Iowa in 2010 and a MPH from the University of Iowa in 2008.

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Anand K. Gramopadhye Clemson University

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Dr. Anand K. Gramopadhye’s research focuses on solving human-machine systems design problems and modeling human performance in technologically complex systems such as health care, aviation and manufacturing. He has more than 200 publications in these areas, and his research has been funded by NIH, NASA, NSF, FAA, DOE, and private companies.
Currently, he and his students at the Advanced Technology Systems Laboratory are pursuing cutting-edge research on the role of visualization and virtual reality in aviation maintenance, hybrid inspection and job-aiding, technology to support STEM education and, more practically, to address information technology and process design issues related to delivering quality health care.
As the Department Chair, he has been involved in the initiation of programmatic initiatives that have resulted in significant growth in the Industrial Engineering Program, situating it in the forefront both nationally and internationally. These include the Online Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering Program, the Endowed Chairs Program in Industrial Engineering, Human Factors and Ergonomics Institute and the Clemson Institute for Supply Chain and Optimization and the Center for Excellence in Quality.
For his success, he has been recognized by the NAE through the Frontiers in Engineering Program, and he has received the College’s Collaboration Award and the McQueen Quattlebaum Award, which recognizes faculty for their outstanding research. In addition, Dr. Gramopadhye serves as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics and on the editorial board for several other journals.

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The purpose of this research is to identify differences in the proficiency of students who learned how to construct a circuit on a breadboard under three different levels of physical fidelity – a 2D simulation, a virtual environment and a physical environment. In a previous study, the researchers identified differences in proficiency, defined by construction time, diagram accuracy, and correct circuit construction among participants in the three conditions. However, while providing valuable data about the outcomes achieved by the participants, the results of the study offered little insight into the processes or mechanisms through which the physical fidelity impacted the results obtained. In this follow-up study, we seek to evaluate why students demonstrated significant differences in proficiency between conditions and how these differences related to the fidelity. Semi-structured interviews and video analysis of the participants completing the tasks are used to examine differences in the approach taken by participants, their troubleshooting strategy, and their overall effort and persistence on the task. A visual and verbal elicitation method is used to elicit the mental model of participants as it relates to the circuit construction task and the requisite knowledge. A purposeful sample of 24 participants (from the larger initial study) was recruited for interviews and video analysis. Analysis involves coding the data and generating themes and development and comparison of mental models. The findings of this study will provide valuable insights about how the physical fidelity shapes student’s knowledge structure and allow instructors to better design and integrate these computer mediated environments in technical education.

Alfred, M. C., & Lee, M. B., & Neyens, D. M., & Gramopadhye, A. K. (2016, June), Understanding Learner’s Mental Models of a Task as Shaped by the Physical Fidelity of a Learning Environment Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27101

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