J Biol Eng. 2022 Aug 8;16(1):20. doi: 10.1186/s13036-022-00300-0.
BACKGROUND: The Covid-19 pandemic caused a sudden shift towards remote learning, moving classes to online formats. Not exempt from this switch, laboratory courses traditionally taught in-person were also moved to remote methods, costing students the opportunity to learn these skills hands-on. In order for instructors to provide course materials effectively and engagingly, non-traditional methods should be explored. Virtual reality (VR) has become more accessible in recent years. VR simulations have been used for many years as educational tools in high-risk settings such as flight or medical simulations. Immersive VR videos implemented in a remote laboratory course could provide the students with an engaging and suitable learning experience. To test the effectiveness of VR videos as a tool for remote education, VR videos of the laboratory component of a Biomolecular Engineering course were provided to students. A survey was distributed for students to self-report their experience with the videos. The survey contained quantitative and qualitative ratings of VR as an educational tool.
RESULTS: The survey showed that students (~ 89% strongly agree or agree) believed the videos provided the opportunity to work at their own pace and were an appropriate length. While ~ 74% of students said that the videos provided enough information to understand the tasks, a small percentage felt that the videos improved their retention (~ 16%) and understanding (~ 9%) of the course material. About 28% of the students responded positively when asked about how VR videos improved their engagement with the material. ~ 30% reported confidence in applying the skills learned in the videos in the future and ~ 43% believe the VR videos were an acceptable alternative to in-person labs. Two-thirds of students reported feeling some form of discomfort while viewing the VR videos and 54% reported not using the headset for the videos and using the 3D video feature instead.
CONCLUSIONS: As many students reported the videos containing appropriate information, the content of the videos was not an issue. A combination of improved camera quality with motion stability, more comfortable headsets, and a reduction in editing issues could greatly improve the quality and effectiveness of VR videos.