The Impact of using Virtual Reality Lessons to Teach Microbiology Online

Donald, C. et al. (2023) The Impact of using Virtual Reality Lessons to Teach Microbiology Online. 16th Annual University of Glasgow Learning and Teaching Conference, Online, 29 Mar 2023. (Unpublished)

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Virtual Reality (VR) is gaining increasing interest as an educational technology which can be integrated within Higher Education teaching. The University of Glasgow (UofG) has been working with leading immersive technology company, Edify, to embed tailored VR applications as part of a variety of subject disciplines. Within the life sciences, this is beneficial for delivering complex skills training and overcoming significant pedagogical boundaries encountered in traditional teaching environments, such as associated safety concerns and restrictive equipment costs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this collaboration provided teachers with a virtual training platform from which to remotely lead classes within true-to-life 3D environments through Zoom or other applications. We developed the Disease Diagnostic VR app which was implemented within the Junior Honours Molecular Methods (MM) course. Using a combination of lectures, computer tasks and laboratory-based practical sessions, students gain experience of cutting-edge molecular biology techniques, whilst acquiring fundamental knowledge and theory of the life sciences. It is the largest practical course offered within the Life Sciences at UofG and is delivered to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. As a result, the course caters to students studying a range of degree specialisms with varying backgrounds in molecular biology. To accommodate the COVID-19 restrictions during the 2020/21 academic session, the MM team developed an interactive virtual learning environment (VLE) within Moodle, comprised of topic-specific worksheets, videos, quizzes and learning science simulations. These activities covered a range of techniques from identifying genetic mutations by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to diagnosing infected patients using quantitative PCR (qPCR). Students were provided with structured access to the activities in the ‘Moodle book’ split into 5 chapters to be completed over 5 consecutive days. The Disease Diagnostic VR app was included on the fifth day to further support student’s understanding of the processes involved in qPCR. We were granted ethical approval to investigate if VR technology influenced the student learning experience by comparing VR delivered by-proxy to traditional and less immersive online teaching methodologies. Our study consisted of 76 students randomly allocated into two groups; the test group, who experienced the VR incorporated within the 5-day Moodle lab book, and a control group working only with the interactive online lab manual material. Participants completed questionnaires before and after these tasks. Our results indicate that although there is no observable difference in learning outcomes between the 2 groups, students in the VR-test group consistently rated their learning experience more favourably than the control group. In addition, student confidence in practical skill elements was also greater in the test group compared to the control. While research into the effectiveness of VR for teaching and learning has been expanding recently in education and psychology literature, this area of research is still in its relative infancy. Hence, examining the effectiveness of VR within Higher Education is an important and timely topic that will not only inform future practice but further the frontiers of a vital and evolving field of research.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:Virtual Reality, practical skills, qPCR, student experience, remote learning, microbiology
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McDonnell, Professor Neil and Carman, Professor Christopher and Macpherson, Professor Fiona and Latkovskis, Imants and Scott, Dr Pamela and Judge, Dr Andrew and Marks, Dr Leah and Taylor, Dr Sonya and Donald, Dr Claire and Veitch, Dr Nicola and Kirkwood, Mr Nathan and Edmond, Dr Avril
Authors: Donald, C., Veitch, N., Judge, A., Carman, C., Scott, P., Taylor, S., Marks, L., Edmond, A., Latkovskis, I., Kirkwood, N., McDonnell, N., and Macpherson, F.
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Infection & Immunity
University Services > IT Services > Computing Service
College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Molecular Biosciences
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
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