Mobile VR Visuospatial Training
This collaborative project explored how VR can help STEM students develop visuospatial thinking skills - a cornerstone of success in the field. Our team included people from various backgrounds:
Irina Kuznetcova (Department of Educational Studies, The Ohio State University)
Dr. Christopher Porter (Department of Physics, The Ohio State University)
Dr. Jonathan Brown (Department of Engineering Education, The Ohio State University)
Nicholas Abbott (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The Ohio State University, and the founder of GigaBison)
Ethan Andersen (Department of Physics, The Ohio State University)
The result was 5 VR Android applications accompanied by a set of class activities based on collaborative student work and active engagement with the technology.
We tested the activities and the software with college students majoring in STEM and dental fields. Below you can find more information about the process.
Required instruments & materials
A smartphone with Android 5.0 and up;
Google Cardboard headset or any other generic mobile VR headset;
Bluetooth mobile VR controller.
Please note that the apps are available only as apk files. To install it on a phone, download the apk file, locate it in the phone files (look in the Download folder), and tap on the file to install it. The file was check by an anti-virus and is free of any viruses.
REQUIRED INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS:
Examples of gameplay
Notes on implementation
The major obstacle we faced was Bluetooth controllers de-pairing from phones. It seemed to depend on the quality of each individual controller. To fix the problem, we turned them on/off and unpaired/pared them to phones again. In situations when that did not work either, we had a few spare controllers ready.
Our experiment participants found it hard to navigate controller buttons without seeing them, and generally were not used to this type of technology. We highly recommend a session introducing this technology to students.
The controls are explicitly presented in the VR applications. However, due to differences in how Bluetooth controllers are manufactured, some of the controllers use different buttons to perform certain actions. If that's the case, experiment with the controller buttons until you find the ones that perform desired actions.
All activities accompanying the VR applications are collaborative in nature. Our participants worked in pairs or teams of 3-4 depending on how many students were present in each given class. You can use all activities or only some of them or create your own - depending on your needs and goals.
In our experiment, none of the activities were graded but we did collect participants' activity/working sheets.
Each VR application was used during one class on the corresponding topic. The class usually started with homework overview and a mini-lecture on the topic of the week (20-30 minutes) and the rest of the class (30-50 minutes) was spent on the VR activities. The remaining time was spent on weekly quizzes. Each week the class tackled one of the chapters in Sheryl Sorby's Developing Spatial Thinking (2011) textbook.
You can use the VSVR applications and activities as stand-alone teaching tools if you provide more context and content explanations to your students. In our case, the participants became familiar with the topic through a mini-lecture first and then worked with VR.