Building and using educational virtual environments for teaching about animal behaviors
Donald Lee Allison, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States
Georgia Institute of Technology . Awarded
In order to advance the technology and drive further development, applications need to be found where virtual reality is beneficial, or at least not detrimental. Flight simulators and phobia treatment are two such applications, but they are niche applications with very specific audiences. Education has been proposed as an application area where VR might be broadly applicable and have far reaching effects, but studies of this area are still in their early stages. This dissertation examines the learning potential of the virtual gorilla environment.
First, other educational virtual environments are examined to determine what lessons can be learned from them. Since an important aspect of the virtual gorilla environment is virtual gorillas that interact as real ones do, other animal simulations were evaluated for useful ideas for building virtual gorillas.
A simulation of the gorilla environment of habitat 3 at Zoo Atlanta was constructed, emphasizing educational goals designed jointly with Zoo Atlanta. Two groups of students were given pre- and post-tests on gorilla identification, behaviors, and social interactions, with one group exploring the virtual habitat between tests. A statistical analysis showed that student performance improved on some topics after exposure to the virtual gorilla environment, but not others.
Allison, D.L. Building and using educational virtual environments for teaching about animal behaviors. Ph.D. thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology.
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