New Study Explores Relationship Between Middle School Students’ Cognitive Development and Virtual Reality - Tech Learning

New Study Explores Relationship Between Middle School Students’ Cognitive Development and Virtual Reality

Texas Tech Professor Honored for Research on Impact of Virtual Reality on Learning
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SAN ANTONIO (May 3, 2017) – Student scores showed significant improvements in understanding of pulmonary circulation to and from the heart, as well as blood circulation within the chambers of the heart, according to new study conducted by Rebecca Hite, assistant professor, curriculum and instruction, Texas Tech University, “Perceptions of Virtual Presence in 3-D, Haptic-Enabled, Virtual Reality Science Instruction.” The research, focused on mixed reality learning experiences with zSpace, was presented at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) and was conducted at North Carolina State University where Hite was a doctoral student under the direction of Dr. Gail Jones at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.

Hite was honored on Sunday with “Best Paper” in the Applied Research in Immersive Environments for Learning at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting in San Antonio for another virtual reality research study, “Cognitive Development and Virtual Presence in 3-D, Haptic-Enabled, Virtual Reality Science Instruction.”

Using data from a larger study of 151 sixth and ninth grade students with zSpace, Hite’s paper explored the relationships between students’ aspects of cognitive development and perceptions of virtual presence. Results showed that sixth grade students’ proficiency in rotating objects mentally were positively correlated with control of the objects and activities in virtual spaces. This provides insight to how students experience realism in mixed reality environments and valuable information to improve virtual learning experiences for younger learners.

Hite began her career teaching high school science and geography, concerned that some of her students could not fully understand and appreciate the importance of science in their lives. She wanted to offer students a connection to science that would resonate, both in their conceptual understanding and engagement, to encourage their interest in STEM futures. It is through her research career today, that she believes technology tools, virtual and mixed reality, can offer those rich and robust STEM experiences to support and encourage students in STEM. 

It is this idea that has fueled a research agenda, in conjunction with Dr. Gail Jones at North Carolina State, to explore the unique affordances of emergent technology. In particular, to understand how younger and underrepresented learners, including students with disabilities, can access rich science experiences through virtual and mixed reality opportunities.

Hite remarked, “Through continued research, we may garner insight to the power of these emergent technologies to influence STEM teaching and learning. It is imperative that education stakeholders--schools, teachers, parents, and students alike--are provided the more current and relevant information for best practices in virtual and blended STEM instruction.”

In a 2016 paper Hite co-wrote and published in the International Journal of Education and Information Technologies, titled, “Perceptions of Presence in 3-D, Haptic-enabled, Virtual Reality Instruction,” which sampled 20 middle school students and teachers using zSpace to explore biology and physical science content, results reported that students more than teachers reported improved gains science process skills and understandings of the nature of science. When compared to traditional forms of science instruction, students ranked the virtual technology as more interesting and increasing their understanding - with zSpace as the most preferred instructional option.

About zSpace

zSpace delivers the ultimate learning experience to inspire curiosity and accelerate understanding. Our product, zSpace®, combines elements of VR and AR, on an all-in-one computer, to create mixed reality computing experiences that are immersive, interactive and lifelike. Among its numerous awards and accolades, zSpace was named “Cool Vendor” by Gartner, Inc., “Best in Show at ISTE” by Tech & Learning Magazine for three consecutive years and was ranked #143 on the 2016 Inc. 500 list. zSpace is a privately held, venture backed company located in Sunnyvale, California, and has been granted more than 25 patents for its innovative technologies. For more information, visit, or follow on Twitter @zSpace.



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