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Usability Evaluation of a Virtual Educational Laboratory Platform

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Virtual Instruction and Collaboration

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1637.1 - 26.1637.13



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Paper Authors

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Yizhe Chang Stevens Institute of Technology


El-Sayed S. Aziz Stevens Institute of Technology

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Dr. El-Sayed Aziz is an associate professor in the Production Engineering and Mechanical Design Department at Faculty of Engineering, Mansoura University, Egypt. Currently, he is a research scientist at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. He received B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Mansoura University, Egypt, in 1991 and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2003. His research interests include knowledge-based engineering systems, computer-integrated design and manufacturing, Finite Element Analysis, software development and applications as well as remote and virtual laboratories.

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Zhou Zhang Stevens Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Ph.D Candidate, Mechanical Engineering Department, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ, 07030.


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Mingshao Zhang Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville Orcid 16x16


Sven K. Esche Stevens Institute of Technology (School of Engineering and Science)

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Sven Esche is a tenured Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. He received a Diploma in Applied Mechanics in 1989 from Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany, and was awarded M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Ohio State University in 1994 and 1997, respectively. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses related to mechanisms and machine dynamics, integrated product development, solid mechanics and plasticity theory, structural design and analysis, engineering analysis and finite element methods and has interests in remote laboratories, project-based learning and student learning assessment. His research is in the areas of remote sensing and control with applications to remote experimentation as well as modeling of microstructure changes in metal forming processes. He publishes regularly in peer-reviewed conference proceedings and scientific journals. At the 2006 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago, USA, he received the Best Paper Award for his article ‘A Virtual Laboratory on Fluid Mechanics’.

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Usability Evaluation of a Videogame-based Educational LaboratoryTaking advantage of videogame technology, game-based virtual laboratories are able to offerpromising immersive and collaborative learning experiences. Research indicates that such virtuallaboratories can be viable alternative platforms for laboratory learning activities with specialadvantages in distance education applications. Various researchers also evaluated whetherstudents learned target knowledge via virtual laboratory exercises. However, several questionsemerged during these evaluations: Can students complete this new form of laboratory exercises,which they have not encountered before, in an effective way? What are the factors that affecttheir performance during the laboratory exercise?This article tries to answer these questions by assessing the students’ performances in twovideogame-based virtual gear train laboratories. Simple and planetary gear train scenarios weredesigned and implemented on the basis of Garry’s Mod, a sand-box 3D game utilizing theSource game engine. 94 junior-year undergraduate students taking a Machine Dynamics andMechanisms course were assessed right after completing the lecture and homework of thechapter on gear system design and modeling. Most of these students were randomly divided intolaboratory groups of 2 while the remainder conducted the laboratory exercises alone, thusserving as control group to assess the students’ collaboration in such laboratories. In order tosimulate a remote learning scenario, the group members were physically separated into tworooms so that they could not communicate directly with each other but could do so only by text-chatting within the virtual laboratory. A teaching assistant was present in each room to help thesestudents.In order to evaluate the usability of this videogame-based laboratory, a data set containing thestudents’ videogame background, their overall performance in the course, and a game log werecollected and analyzed. The log tracks their activities during the laboratory exercises, theircompletion time for the exercises, as well as their text-chatting frequency. It was discovered that,from the perspective of the viability of this laboratory approach, the students generally were ableto complete the exercises within a suitable amount of time regardless of their prior videogameexperience (both exercises were designed to be completed within one hour). From the point ofview of performance, those students with better overall performance in the course tended tocomplete the laboratory exercise with fewer mistakes. From the perspective of studentcollaboration, the text-chatting frequency varied from group to group and the grouped studentsmade more mistakes than the students working individually.

Chang, Y., & Aziz, E. S., & Zhang, Z., & Zhang, M., & Esche, S. K. (2015, June), Usability Evaluation of a Virtual Educational Laboratory Platform Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24973

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