Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S.

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Daniel Everett Pittman, Jr.

Second Advisor

Kerstin Haring

Third Advisor

Sanchari Das

Fourth Advisor

Maria Calbi

Keywords

HTC VIVE, Unity, Virtual classroom, Virtual reality, VR classroom, Zoom

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the way students learn and engage with their peers and instructors. Likewise, instructors have had to quickly transform their course materials to suit the online classroom format. Results from a survey of students and instructors at the University of Denver revealed that perceived levels of learning and collaboration were lessened with the transition to online learning. Moreover, the sense of presence in an educational atmosphere with other individuals was reported to be significantly stronger in a real physical classroom, as compared to an online classroom. This thesis therefore seeks to provide a new, alternative format: a virtual reality (VR) classroom. The goal of the VR classroom is to provide the same safety as traditional online classrooms (seeing as the pandemic is still ongoing), while also minimizing the pain points of traditional online classrooms, as the survey results denoted.

Specifically, the VR classroom was developed using the HTC VIVE, Unity Game Engine, C# scripts, SteamVR plugin, Photon Engine, and several other packages. Design features and core functionality in the code were heavily based on the results of the initial surveys and were implemented in order to assess if learning outcomes, collaboration outcomes, and sense of presence can be improved by the VR classroom, as compared to a traditional virtual classroom. The final VR classroom prototype is a multiplayer game environment with network synchronization, voice capabilities, and avatar representations for participants.

To investigate the three research questions, a case study was performed with three students, an undergraduate first-year (with no in-person college experience), an undergraduate non-first-year (with some in-person college experience), and a graduate student. They participated in a pre-quiz, classroom lecture followed by a discussion, and a post-quiz in both the VR classroom and a traditional virtual classroom (Zoom).

The results of the case study showed that the VR classroom does improve learning outcomes and immersion outcomes (sense of presence), when compared to Zoom. There were mixed results about whether or not the VR classroom improved collaboration outcomes. Future work regarding these outcomes is provided. Overall, the VR classroom prototype highlights the exciting possibilities for the inclusion of VR in educational settings, and the results of this thesis serve to guide future VR development work.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Provenance

Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Victoria Alexxis Reddington

File size

233 pgs

File format

application/pdf

Language

en

Discipline

Computer science, Education, Higher education

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