We describe the design, development, and initial evaluation of an interactive virtual environment whose objective is to help undergraduate students learn and review the concepts and practices of differential leveling. The virtual environment, which includes realistic terrains and leveling instruments that look, operate, and produce results comparable to the physical ones, is not meant to replace field practice completely. It will be integrated in surveying courses as a preparation, revision and assessment tool. Initial findings from a formative study with sixty (60) undergraduate students and three (3) faculty show that the virtual environment is usable, engaging and useful for teaching/learning differential leveling. Results of a summative study with forty-eight (48) undergraduate students show that using the virtual environment led to an increase in subjects’ declarative knowledge by 28% and procedural knowledge by 30%. Compared to traditional practice in the field, interacting with the virtual environment led to significantly higher declarative knowledge gains; differences in procedural knowledge gains (e.g. the ability to perform the leveling exercise in the field) between students who used the virtual environment versus students who had practiced in the field were not significant.
An Interactive Virtual Environment for Learning Differential Leveling: Development and Initial Findings
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