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Immersive Virtual Environments for University Education: Views from the Classroom
Bowman, Doug A.
Lucas, John F.
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Education has long been touted as an important application area for immersive virtual environments (VEs). VEs can allow students to visualize and interact with complex three-dimensional (3D) structures, perform virtual experiments,#157; view scenes with natural head and body movements, and experience environments that would be otherwise inaccessible because of distance (the surface of the Moon), scale (a complex molecule), or danger (a sunken ship). Many researchers have explored the use of VEs for education [1, 2], with some degree of success. However, few VE systems have been deployed for actual classroom use, and little is known about effective methods for employing VEs in real-world settings (the work of Johnson et al. is a notable exception ). In this paper, we describe three VE applications developed to teach university students concepts in the areas of computer graphics, building structures, and computer networking, and discuss our experience in using them as integral parts of appropriate classes at Virginia Tech. We differ from Johnson et al. in our focus on postsecondary education and in our use of VEs as tools within a traditional lecture-based class. We present our observations of what worked and what did not, and offer guidelines for others wishing to incorporate VEs into the classroom.