Project Leads: N. Weliweriya, C. Hall, & A. Majewska

Traditional telescope and microscope use in labs can be limited due to equipment availability, cost, and scalability. Moreover, students often face challenges in grasping complex concepts due to the two-dimensional representation of these tools in textbooks or online resources. The integration of virtual reality (VR) technology with traditional teaching tools has shown significant potential to revolutionize STEM education. This project aims to develop and implement a novel approach by integrating VR headsets with telescopes and microscopes, creating immersive virtual labs and training experiences. This innovative approach aims to overcome the limitations of current methods and enhance the overall effectiveness of science education.

Objectives:

  • Virtual Labs: Develop VR simulations that mimic the use of telescopes and microscopes, allowing students to virtually explore celestial bodies and microscopic organisms. This will provide hands-on experience, replicating real-world scenarios.
  • Immersive Training: Create training modules that guide students through the proper usage of telescopes and microscopes, enhancing their technical skills in a controlled and risk-free environment.
  • Education Research: Utilize data analytics from VR interactions to conduct research on student engagement, learning patterns, and misconceptions. This data will inform the refinement of teaching strategies and content delivery.

Proposed Approach and Importance:

By integrating VR headsets with telescopes and microscopes, students will experience a sense of presence and interaction, transcending the limitations of physical equipment. This approach offers several advantages:

  • Accessibility: VR labs can be accessed remotely, allowing students to engage in labs at their convenience, eliminating scheduling constraints.
  • Cost-Efficiency: The need for expensive physical equipment is reduced, making STEM education more accessible to institutions with limited resources.
  • Engagement: The immersive nature of VR engages students on a deeper level, enhancing their motivation and understanding of complex scientific concepts.
  • Research Potential: The data collected from VR interactions can provide insights into students' learning behaviors, helping educators tailor teaching methods and content.

Implementation:

  • Develop VR simulations of telescopic observations and microscopic examinations, ensuring accuracy and realism.
  • Create interactive training modules that guide students through proper equipment usage and experimental procedures.
  • Collect data on student interactions and analyze them to refine both VR modules and teaching strategies.

Involving Courses:

Astronomy lectures and labs. (Ania showed an interest in using a similar approach in her Physiology and Pharmacology courses.)

Current Funding:

  • Franklin college‚Äôs Teaching Enhancement and Innovation Fund for FY24
  • We already have funding to acquire a couple of Unistellar telescopes, specifically the eVscope eQuinox model. These telescopes possess the remarkable capability of connecting to iPads, allowing real-time viewing of celestial images through smartphones and tablets via image stacking technology.

Future Funding opportunities:

  • Learning technologies grant (spring 2024)