Exploring Astronomy in VR: Examining the effects on adolescents’ engagement in astronomy through an interactive VR learning environment

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Examensarbete för masterexamen
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2022
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Eidikis, Augustas
Svensson, Marcus
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Research has demonstrated that adolescents find it challenging to understand astronomy. It is evident that traditional methods of learning the subject simply do not provide the adequate tools for students to grasp the sheer magnitude of celestial objects, the unimaginable distances between them, and the building blocks that comprise them. This thesis investigates the potential of using Virtual Reality (VR) as an educational tool for teaching astronomy in a science centre setting. More specifically, it aims to design an interactive and engaging learning experience with a constructivist approach, where students can freely explore the subject in a VR environment. The exploration of the research question and hypotheses was influenced by a Research through Design approach with the intention to generate new knowledge in the field of Interaction Design. A prototype was designed and iterated on continuously through the Design Thinking process, and software development was conducted in Unity to build the VR environment. Efforts were put into conducting rigorous user tests to gain a deep understanding of the target audience’s needs and thus form requirements. Insights and considerations for designing for experiential learning, VR, and science centres are highlighted and discussed. The results strongly indicate that VR can be used successfully as a learning environment for astronomy, and further suggests that prioritising continuous user evaluation, a coherent design, and intuitive interactions are of utmost importance.
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Interaction Design, Research through Design, Virtual Reality, Astronomy, Experiential Learning, Constructivist Theory, Science Centre
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