Virtual Plant Cell classroom trial
Photo courtesy of Trinity College

Virtual Plant Cell Evaluation 2019

ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology

Reporting on the value of Virtual Plant Cell (VPC) for curriculum-aligned virtual reality and immersive education.

Free, curriculum-aligned VR and immersive teaching resources:

Download a copy of the report via browser using Print to PDF.

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Virtual Plant Cell 360°
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

Virtual Plant Cell classroom trial (Oculus Rift)
Photo courtesy of Trinity College

1.0

Virtual Plant Cell Evaluation Background

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (PEB) has created a suite of virtual reality (VR) and immersive technology experiences for education. Virtual Plant Cell (VPC) pioneers curriculum-aligned VR content and methodologies for classroom use, using the technology to teach plant cell biology in a fun, innovative and engaging way.

In 2018, classroom trials of VPC using VR and 360° videos were conducted, and public exhibition of VPC at festivals throughout Australia and abroad continues. Free VPC teaching resources were launched online at this link. VPC was a Western Australian Premier’s Science Awards finalist for the 2018 Engagement Initiative of the Year and a finalist for a 2018 TIGA Games Industry Award (Educational Game).

In March 2019, PEB engaged Culture Counts to conduct an evaluation of the VPC experience to date, using data collected across the course of the project to assess outcomes and the efficacy of VR for learning.

The key outcome areas for the project are identified as:

The following report delivers insights from a range of data obtained through implementation of VPC in the classroom, market research and professional development workshops with teachers. All data was collected in Perth, Western Australia throughout 2018.

Data references are outlined in the table in Section 7.0

Inside the Virtual Plant Cell
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

2.0

Virtual Plant Cell At A Glance

Learning Comprehension

The assessment score for ‘recognising the cell and its components as 3D’ was 31% higher on average for students that had access to VPC, compared to Year 8 students who learnt the subject through conventional methods.

The assessment score for ‘providing an explanation of the cell (and/or its components) and links to the whole plant’ was 23% higher on average for students that had access to VPC, compared to Year 8 students who learnt the subject through conventional methods.

“The high order experience of a whole new world of learning and team work offers a great advantage in learning harder concepts and misconceptions such as 3D cells.”- Teacher Feedback Survey

Increased Interest and Engagement

Students overwhelmingly agreed that they liked using virtual reality technology in class, with 96% of students strongly agreeing or agreeing with this statement.

84% of students agreed that they would recommend VPC to their friends, which shows extremely high likelihood of word of mouth promotion amongst students.

“Really good - very engaged - lots of Wow!” - Teacher Feedback Survey

“This is amazing and I hope everyone gets to use it!”- Student Feedback Survey

Practical classroom delivery

100% of teachers involved in VPC professional development activities agreed that VPC content is useful for their classroom, and that the workshop increased the likelihood that they’ll use VR in the classroom.

When asked about barriers to implementing VR technology in the classroom, teachers cited ‘cost’ and ‘limited skills/knowledge of staff facilitating VR experience’ as the most common obstacles. VPC is designed to address these barriers and build towards practical classroom uptake of educational VR.

Following their classroom experience of VPC, 89% of Year 8 students agreed that the tool was easy to use.

Aspirational Value

With evidence to back VPC’s positive impact on learning comprehension, engagement and interest in these areas, it’s anticipated that this will flow on to influence its aspirational value. Examining this is a future aim of the project.

“I feel like incorporating VR with education makes it a fun way to learn information. I feel like I learnt more from the VR than I would do from a textbook in class. It makes me more interested in actually learning about the plant cells rather than just learning it from a textbook.”
- Student Feedback Survey

Student models of plant cells
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

3.0

Learning Comprehension

The content in this section demonstrates that VPC provides an effective way of teaching plant cell biology in schools, and is able to address difficulties and misconceptions that surround the subject matter.

To assess VPC implementation in the classroom, Year 8 students were asked to make plasticine models based on their knowledge and understanding of plant cells. Assessment scores were monitored to measure comprehension levels attached to a number of plant cell components. Scores have been compared to those prior to teaching intervention, as well as to those resulting from conventional teaching methods, to highlight new learning benefits that VPC brings to the classroom.

VPC VS Conventional Learning Assessment Highlights

“Overall the experience was great. I remember going back to a conventional classroom as an individual who had fully completed the program, and I felt happy knowing that I knew more than anyone else. When I was explaining the function of the nucleus, the teacher was surprised to how much detail I put in my explanation and how I had just said what he was about to.”
- Student Feedback Survey

Students that had access to VPC were more likely to get an ‘Outstanding’ assessment result.

The assessment score for ‘recognising the cell and its components as 3D’ was 31% higher on average for students that had access to VPC, compared to Year 8 students who learnt the subject through conventional methods.

The assessment score for ‘providing an explanation of the cell (and/or its components) and links to the whole plant’ was 23% higher on average for students that had access to VPC, compared to Year 8 students who learnt the subject through conventional methods.

Average assessment score increase (total)

What were student's assessment scores before and after the VPC?

n = 44

Average score increase: 30%

Insights:

The above chart displays a breakdown of student assessment results in five score buckets, before and after the VPC experience. The average assessment score increased by 30% following VPC learning, with almost 30% of students receiving a score of 80% (‘Outstanding’) or more.

Assessment Scores (By assessment area) before and after teaching intervention, VPC vs Conventional Methods

Insights:

Students were tested on their knowledge of a plant cell and its components before and after a teaching intervention. Two classes used conventional teaching methods (control group), while two classes experienced VPC.

The above chart shows the change in comprehension levels based on cell modelling assessment scores following the exercise. The effectiveness of the VPC tool is demonstrated, particularly in increased recognition of a cell as 3D (VPC user results 31% higher than the control group), and an increased ability to provide an explanation of the cell (and/or its components) and links to the whole plant (VPC user results 23% higher than the control group).

Student Feedback

Insights:

Following the survey, students were asked a number of questions about their experience. A total 91% of students agreed or strongly agreed that VPC helped them learn.

When asked if VPC provided easy to understand information about cell biology, 85% of students strongly agreed or agreed.

88% of respondents agreed that VPC provides relevant information about cell biology.

“The high order experience of a whole new world of learning and team work offers a great advantage in learning harder concepts and misconceptions such as 3D cells.”- Teacher Feedback Survey

Virtual Plant Cell 360°
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

4.0

Increased engagement and interest

VPC aims to increase student engagement and interest in plant cell biology with the use of new and innovative technology, creating a fun and active learning environment.

PEB distributed surveys to students and teachers who had experienced VPC in a classroom environment. The results in this section relate to the feedback received through these surveys.

“Really good - very engaged - lots of Wow!” - Teacher Feedback Survey

Student Feedback

Insights:

Students overwhelmingly agreed that they would like to use more virtual reality technology in class, with 95% of students agreeing with this statement. Similarly, following their VPC experience, almost all students agreed that they had liked using virtual reality in class. 84% of students enthusiastically agreed that they would recommend VPC to their friends, which shows extremely high likelihood of word of mouth promotion amongst students.

“I enjoyed the VPC experience and hope to use it again in the future either in the classroom or anywhere at school.” - Student Feedback Survey

“It was a very good thing to do with my friends/classmates as we learnt a lot about plant cells and we had fun.” - Student Feedback Survey

“This is amazing and I hope everyone gets to use it!” - Student Feedback Survey

Virtual Plant Cell classroom trial (Oculus Rift)
Photo courtesy of Trinity College

5.0

Practical Classroom delivery

A range of public and private high schools across Perth, Western Australia were asked about the technologies currently available at their school, and their perceived barriers to the uptake of VR and immersive technologies in the classroom. This research gives insight into the practicalities of using VR learning tools in the classroom and is being used to inform VPC design to drive practical classroom delivery.

Teachers and students who have trialled VPC were asked questions about their hands-on experience. These insights are also available in this section.

Access to technology

What technology do you currently have access to at your school?

n = 18

Current VR Investment at schools

Has your school thought about investing in VR technology in the near future?

n = 18

Insights:

All schools had access to one of the devices provided in the list, indicating that all schools already have the ability to host VPC content in the classroom, which is compatible with a range of platforms: from low-barrier-to-entry to high-end VR headsets; tablets/ipads; and desktop/laptop computers.

72% of surveyed schools already have VR technology or plan to invest in the next 2 years. This indicates that within the coming years, the majority of schools will be able to embrace VR technology and the ground-breaking learning opportunities that come with it. VPC represents some of the first comprehensive, curriculum-aligned educational VR content compatible with such technology.

Barriers to VR investment

If you are interested in VR, what would you consider some of the barriers to implementing VR technology in your school?

n = 18, respondents were able to select more than one option so the results sum to more than 100%.

Insights:

Most of the surveyed teachers cited ‘cost’ and ‘limited skills/knowledge of staff facilitating VR experience’ (87% respectively) as barriers to implementing VR technology in the classroom. The lack of alignment with current curriculum (chosen by 40% of respondents) was considered another obstacle, and a third of respondents (33%) indicated that there wasn’t enough information about VR technology in schools.

VPC is designed to address these barriers and build towards practical classroom uptake of educational VR. The platform is curriculum-aligned, freely available and compatible with a range of platforms, addressing the barriers to VR implementation concerning expenditure and lack of curriculum-alignment.

Teacher Feedback

Following a VPC professional development (PD) exercise, 100% of teachers involved agreed that the PD increased the likelihood that they’ll use VR in the classroom.

How useful/relevant is the content in the VPC videos for your classroom?

n = 7

How useful are the resources and guides accompanying the VPC videos for your classroom use?

n = 7

Insights:

Teachers that took part in the PD exercise unanimously agreed that the content in VPC videos was useful for their classroom, with 71% of the sample stating that it was very useful. Similarly, all teachers agreed that the resources and guides accompanying the VPC videos were useful for classroom use.

“(VPC) helped to engage the students and also established the 3D aspects of the cell.” - Teacher Feedback

Student Feedback

Insights:

Following their classroom experience of VPC, 89% of Year 8 students agreed that the tool was easy to use.

Plant biologists
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

6.0

Aspirational Value

Through ground-breaking technology-based tools such as VPC, PEB hopes to see students further develop their interest in plant biology, and ultimately the pursuance of STEM-related disciplines.

With evidence to back the platform’s positive impact on learning comprehension, engagement and interest in these areas, it’s anticipated that this will directly influence its aspirational value. Examining this is a future aim of the project.

“I feel like incorporating VR with education makes it a fun way to learn information. I feel like I learnt more from the VR than I would do from a textbook in class. It makes me more interested in actually learning about the plant cells rather than just learning it from a textbook.” - Student Feedback Survey

Teacher Professional Development with VPC
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

7.0

References

The following report delivers insights from a range of data obtained from the study *Practicality and Efficacy of Using Virtual Reality to Teach Plant Cell Biology and through the implementation of VPC in the classroom, market research, student focus groups and professional development workshops with teachers. All data was collected in Western Australia throughout 2018. Data references are outlined in the table below.

Data Source Date/s collected Sample Size
Classroom Experience Feedback Survey (Students)* 14 May 2018 75
Classroom Experience Feedback Survey (Teachers)* 23 May 2018 2
Focus Group Transcripts (Students)* 14 May 2018 75
Student Assessment Scores (based on VR versus conventional lesson)* 7 to 10 May 2018 85
Professional Development Session Feedback (Teachers) 9 November 2018 7
Market Research (Teachers)# 3 to 19 October 2018 18

*Practicality and Efficacy of Using Virtual Reality to Teach Plant Cell Biology study (UWA HRE Ref: RA/4/20/4485) conducted by:
Karina Price, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, University of Western Australia: outreach@plantenergy.edu.au
Miriam Sullivan, University of Western Australia
Rockwell McGellin, University of Western Australia
Zina Cordery, Edith Cowan University
Tim Blake, Trinity College
Ryan Ng, Independent Psychologist
With thanks to partner school Trinity College, Perth.

#Market Research conducted by 180 Degrees Consulting on behalf of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

Virtual Plant Cell (Samsung GearVR)
Photo courtesy of Plant Energy Biology

Insights and report prepared by:

culturecounts.cc | (08) 9325 7476

Report prepared for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology