Middle School Students’ Perceptions, Experiences, And Behaviors Towards Using a Virtual Reality Application to Build Molecules
College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; Technology, Innovation and Pedagogy
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
To deliver successful integration of virtual reality (VR) technology into chemistry education, it is essential that students have clear and positive perceptions about the purpose and the value of such integration. An important part of establishing a plan for integrating virtual reality technology into chemistry education is to explore the current perceptions, experiences, and behaviors of students towards the use of VR technology to establish an initial baseline of skills and areas in need of development. The purpose of this exploratory mixed methods study was to explore the perceptions, experiences, and behaviors of 62 middle school students in the state of Colorado towards the use of virtual reality technology in chemistry education. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect data from participants using a demographic survey, observations, interviews, and a student perception survey. Participants went through a chemistry exercise delivered through a VR application called Molecule Builder. The first research question asked: “What are middle school students’ perceptions toward using VR technology as a learning tool in the chemistry exercise?”. For this research question, the quantitative portion of the data were collected using 24-Likert-scale items in the student perception survey completed fully by 60 student participants and partially by two participants. Quantitative results of the student perception survey yielded an overall mean of 4.58, indicating that student participants, overall, had very positive perceptions of VR as a learning tool. In addition, the qualitative findings showed the emergence of three themes through the analysis of student responses to the five open-ended questions in Section B: Reflections in the student perceptions survey: (a) advantages of VR as a tool to learn chemistry, (b) disadvantages of using VR as a tool to learn chemistry, and (c) suggestions about using virtual reality applications for teaching chemistry. The second research question asked: “Are there any differences between female and male middle school students’ perceptions toward using VR technology as a learning tool in the chemistry exercise?”. This research question was answered using the findings from the 24 Likert-scale items in Section A: Perceptions in the student perception survey, the demographic data from the demographic survey, and participants’ responses to open-ended questions in Section B: Reflections in the student perception survey. Quantitative results of the student perception survey yielded a non-statistically significant difference between female and male students’ perceptions towards utilizing VR for learning chemistry. The results revealed that female and male students have similar perceptions towards using VR as a tool to learn chemistry. In addition, the qualitative findings showed that both females and males had similar perceptions on most of the three themes and nine sub-themes in general. The third research question asked: “How do middle school students describe their experience during the chemistry exercise using the VR tool?”. This research question was answered using structured interviews with all 62 participants. The majority of participants expressed an overall sense of a positive experience of the chemistry exercise using the VR tool. Two main themes were identified during the interviews: (a) positive experiences and (b) mixed experiences. The fourth research question asked: “How do middle school students behave before, during, and after using the VR tool to conduct the chemistry exercise regarding emotions, body language, and any apparent reactions?”. This research question was answered using observation notes and participants’ responses to three open-ended questions in section C: Behaviors in the student perception survey, which were completed by all 62 participants. The emergent themes from participant behaviors before using the VR tool to conduct the chemistry exercise were: (a) exited, (b) anxious, (c) ambivalent, and (d) joyful. The emergent themes from participant behaviors during the use of the VR tool to conduct the chemistry exercise were: (a) joyful, (b) engaged, (c) virtually present, and (d) ambivalent. The emergent themes from participant behaviors after using the VR tool to conduct the chemistry exercise were: (a) motivated, (b) joyful, (c) accomplished, (d) surprised, and (e) dissociated. In conclusion, results and findings indicated that the use of VR as a tool to learn chemistry was perceived positively by middle school students without gender differences. Additionally, the majority of students had positive experiences using the VR application to build molecules. Finally, students’ behaviors were mostly positive towards the use of VR as a learning tool. The findings and recommendations made in the study could be addressed and utilized by the stakeholders including policymakers, administrators, and educators in the integration of virtual reality technology in the classroom and education in general.
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