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Type: Thesis
Title: Minimising Extraneous Cognitive Load in Immersive Virtual Environments: Evaluating an Immersive Virtual Reality Educational Platform Against the Principles of Cognitive Load Theory
Author: Rogers, Jock Alexander McDonald
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: School of Education
Abstract: Many consider STEM skills to be increasingly important for the future workplace. However, Australian enrolments in senior secondary STEM subjects declined through the 90s and early 2000s, especially in science subjects. The number of enrolments plateaued and has changed little since. One reasons behind this is that students tend to avoid and dropout of STEM subjects. This is partly because STEM education across Australia is not fostering enough interest in students, and a lack of engagement and enjoyment in the classroom. STEM Classrooms need to be made more interesting, engaging and enjoyable, but in a way that does not harm learning. Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) is uniquely positioned for this as it can create novel, authentic, immersive, interactive and emotional experiences. These experiences immerse users within the virtual environment (VE), establishing a sense of presence or ‘being there’. Presence and authenticity create unmediated and engaging experiences, of the type recommended by most modern learning theories. However, IVR comes with many limitations, of which cost is the most notable. Furthermore, there are significant gaps in the literature describing and demonstrating the relation between the countless factors that define IVR, and learning outcomes. So far studies have demonstrated that IVR is often not superior, and sometimes inferior, to traditional methods with respect to cognitive learning outcomes. A problem which is exacerbated by the fact that few of the many IVR devices and software developed are grounded in solid pedagogy. Early research has indicated why this might be the case, the answer might come from Cognitive Load Theory (CLT). CLT is a learning theory especially suited for describing the cognitive loads associated with learning tasks and the methods to manage and reduce it. IVR is often informationally dense, requiring that students navigate a full 360˚, 3D virtual environment whilst being dazzled by many sources of visual and sometimes audial information. CLT suggests that cognitive load comes in two forms. One of these, extraneous load, encompasses content that is irrelevant to learning that either distracts students, or forces them to process it alongside task-relevant information. IVR, it is suggested, tends to create large extraneous loads, which is possibly the source of its mediocre performance in producing cognitive learning outcomes. The goal of this study was to use the principles of CLT to evaluate an educational IVR platform with regards to minimising extraneous load. This platform could support large numbers of users simultaneously within shared or separate VEs whilst an instructor, using a separate non-IVR device, selected, controlled and manipulate the content. After a review of the literature, two questions would define the evaluation: Q1) How does the educational IVR platform compare to the recommendations of CLT regarding the reduction of extraneous load in the presentation of content? Q2) Where & how could the educational IVR platform be changed to better meet the recommendations? The evaluation was conducted by directly using the platform, during which the platform’s content was qualitatively observed and its characteristics explored. These observations were conducted using a coding framework consisting of criteria that was synthesised from the principles of CLT and the characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the platform initially identified. The observations were analysed and discussed, in these discussions content design methods based off the criteria were suggested. More importantly, the interaction between the defining characteristics of the platform and the criteria was determined, from which the primary evaluation and recommendations were made. The evaluation concluded that the platform was well suited for minimising extraneous load for several reasons (Q1). Some simple recommendations were made, primarily the addition of more tools for the instructor to use to manipulate running content (Q2). By attempting to evaluate an ICT technology, the research aimed to guide or assist future evaluations. However, due to limitations in the literature and research method, assumptions had to be made. The limitations that necessitated these assumptions provided a basis for suggested research directions.
Dissertation Note: Thesis (MTeach) -- University of Adelaide, School of Education, 2019
Description: This item is only available electronically.
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