The Educational Value of an Information-Rich Virtual Environment
Bowman, Douglas A.
Wineman, Jean Davison
Hodges, Larry F.
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"Information-rich" virtual environments consist not only of three-dimensional graphics and other spatial data, but also include information of an abstract or symbolic nature that is related to the space. We present evidence that an environment of this type can stimulate learning and comprehension, because it provides a tight coupling between symbolic and experiential information. In our virtual zoo exhibit, students can explore an accurate model of the gorilla habitat at Zoo Atlanta, and also access information related to the design of the exhibit. This paper discusses the rationale behind the design of the application and the interaction techniques used to obtain information. We also present the results of an evaluation, showing that students who used the virtual environment had better test scores that those who only attended a lecture on the material. We show that the virtual experience allowed students to learn information directly, and also motivated them to better learn and understand material from a traditional lecture.