The integration of virtual reality technology into agricultural education
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The purpose of this dissertation was to examine virtual reality (VR) technology in the context of agricultural education. This study used both quantitative and qualitative approaches to address three objectives: (1) describe the opinions that school-based agricultural education (SBAE) teachers have about VR technology in the context of SBAE settings, (2) describe the perspectives that students have regarding the use of VR technology in the context of a university-level agricultural mechanics course, and (3) determine the impacts of the use of VR technology on university students’ achievement in the context of welding skill performance.
To address objective one, a census study was conducted during the 2017-2018 academic year with 90 SBAE teachers across Iowa. A questionnaire was distributed to the teachers via Qualtrics. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data. The results indicated that the teachers generally held favorable opinions about VR technology intertwined with a considerable degree of uncertainty about the technology and its uses.
To address objective two, a qualitative study was conducted with nine students in a university-level agricultural mechanics course who provided their perspectives on using a VR technology application to develop welding-related psychomotor skills. Two focus groups were convened during the Spring 2018 semester. Qualitative data analysis procedures were used. Three major themes emerged: (1) VR welding and live welding have some degree of alignment, (2) VR technology can have some form of utility as a tool for teaching and learning, and (3) the value of using VR technology often depends on the individual. Student feedback indicated that while using a VR technology application can be useful, it should not take the place of using actual welding equipment as part of the teaching and learning processes.
To address objective three, an experimental study was conducted with 101 undergraduate- and graduate-level students at Iowa State University (ISU). All participants were randomly assigned to undergo one of four training protocols: (1) 100% live welding, (2) 100% VR welding, (3) 50% live welding / 50% VR welding, or (4) 50% VR welding / 50% live welding. Each training protocol was an hour long. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that there were no statistically significant differences (p > .05) in total weld scores between participants in the four training protocol groups.
The mixed results from this dissertation indicated that while VR technology may have potential for inclusion in agricultural education settings, further examination of the suitability of this technology is needed. Future research should include a focus on the efficacy of VR technology for teaching and learning purposes. Research should also examine the effectiveness of other educational technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR), to determine their potential for impacting the teaching and learning processes. Regarding implications for practice, agricultural education practitioners (e.g., SBAE teachers and university faculty) should consider a myriad of factors before making educational technology adoption decisions, including cost, ease of use, and alignment with course and program objectives.