Evaluation of Virtual/Augmented Reality Activities in Vertebrate Biology Labs

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Tammy McMullan, Biological Sciences

Project team: Joan Sharp, Biological Sciences, Leanne Ramer, Biomedical Physiology

Timeframe: June 2019 to February 2022

Funding: $4851.27

Course addressed: BISC 316 – Vertebrate Biology

Final report: View Tammy McMullan's Final Report (PDF) >>

Description: The lab component of BISC 316 teaches vertebrate anatomy and function through the use of museum specimens and representative vertebrates dissections. Dissections are a valuable tool for learning anatomy, the connectivity of components of organ systems and their functions. In addition to learning anatomy, students gain hands-on experience which develops their fine-motor skills, which many of our students require to pursue careers in medicine and veterinary sciences. Many medical and some veterinary schools are currently using virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) programs to enhance their student learning. With the increasing difficulty in obtaining specimens, student interest in VR, and some students’ aversion to dissection, I would like to implement a component of VR/AR in BISC 316 labs. I would like to adapt commercially available vertebrate VR/AR programs and investigate the effect of this addition on student learning outcomes: knowledge of the material, satisfaction with the program, and use of the program (how frequently, when, where, and how they incorporated the program into their study schedule).

Questions addressed:

  • What are students’ reasons for taking BISC 316 and their thoughts about dissection, including VR/AR dissection?
  • Does the piloting of the VR/AR software with former students indicate that it is a viable option to try in summer 2020?
  • Did the inclusion of VR/AR activities improve students’ understanding of anatomy and function?
  • How do students rate the overall lab experience for BISC 316?
  • How much time do students spend working on the lab component of BISC 316?
  • Did you use the VR/AR program outside of scheduled lab hours?
  • What is the relationship between time spent working on labs and performance on lab exams?
  • What are students’ stress levels with the VR/AR versus actual dissection?

Knowledge sharing: I will informally discuss my findings with my colleagues. I also plan to present my findings at Biology Teaching related conferences (ABLE – Association of Biology Lab Educators), BCBio or similar conferences. I would also like to publish the findings in a teaching-related journal.

Keywords: Anatomy, Virtual Reality dissections, Vertebrate Biology, Remote