Developing virtual learning environments for engineering education

Tutkimustuotos: Artikkeli kirjassa/konferenssijulkaisussaConference article in proceedingsScientificvertaisarvioitu

137 Lataukset (Pure)


The operating environment for engineers has changed in recent years (Vona et al., 2018; ILO, 2019). Energy transition driven by ecological crises creates a need to have a critical look into engineers’ skill sets and competencies. The renewable energy sector is one of the most significant ones in terms of new job opportunities and the development of new occupational profiles (ILO, 2019). At the same time, the transition to environmentally sustainable and socially just future creates a growing need for expertise that is different from the traditional technically focused competence profile. The project described in this presentation aims to establish best practices for the creation of digital learning environments in a cost-effective way that is easy to integrate with educational contents. We aim to make use of virtual reality-based learning, develop digital and engaging learning environments, and create a radical new opening to develop education and share best practices with other higher education institutions.

The learning environment is known to have a significant impact on the success of learning. It is effective to practice skills in a real environment, but this is not always possible because it can be inaccessible or dangerous. For example, it is not possible or allowed to take 100+ students to a nacelle of a large wind turbine at the height of 150 m or in an underground thermal storage cave. Virtual site visits are also cheaper, reduce the need for traveling, and therefore, decrease CO2 emissions, and make learning flexible as the materials can be reached at any time convenient for the students.

Virtual learning environments are recognized as viable tools to improve engineering education and training and have been developing rapidly in recent years (Wang et al. 2018, Hirvonen 2021). The use of virtual reality tools allows, for example, easy-to-understand visualisation and communication of complex spatial data (Janiszewski et al., 2021; Du et al., 2017). Virtual learning environments provide great opportunities, but they are challenging to create and require specialist knowledge of 3D scanning, VR development, and programming. The challenge is to integrate them with existing educational content.

Educational contents of our project include development of showcases of virtual reality-based learning tools for effective teaching of engineering. Two virtual learning journeys will be demonstrated. One is related to renewable energy engineering. Rapid energy transition challenges us all, also energy engineering education. This requires whole new kinds of learning tools. We will showcase an onshore wind energy site. Along the virtual journey, the student is introduced to technical solutions as well as ecological and social sustainability considerations. The second educational content is about scaling-up existing virtual reality learning systems for rock engineering and engineering geology teaching developed as part of the Aalto Online Learning’s MIEDU, EDUROCK, and COVE pilots (Jastrzebski, 2017; Janiszewski et al., 2020a; Zhang, 2020). This knowledge can further be used to develop a demo on underground thermal energy storage. An example is a virtual rock and mineral database that has more than 100 samples digitised from the university’s collection (EDUROCK, 2019). Test results show that the use of this virtual material enhanced the learning outcomes by 20%.

Finally, there will be an evaluation of the student experience and analyses of the pedagogical aspects done. A very important part of the project is to make sure that the tools and materials are pedagogically relevant and support the intended learning outcomes logically. The focus is on developing flexible and engaging teaching scenarios to achieve learning goals. Detailed workflow descriptions of the processes will be developed and published.
OtsikkoDigital Reset: European Universities Transforming for a Changing World
AlaotsikkoOverview of papers as presented during the Innovating Higher Education Conference 2022 19 - 21 October 2022 in Athens
ToimittajatGeorge Ubachs, Stefan Meuleman, Alessandra Antonaci
JulkaisupaikkaAthens, Greece
KustantajaEuropean Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU)
ISBN (elektroninen)978-90-79730-45-2
DOI - pysyväislinkit
TilaJulkaistu - 17 marrask. 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiA4 Artikkeli konferenssijulkaisussa
TapahtumaInnovating Higher Education Conference - Athens, Kreikka
Kesto: 19 lokak. 202221 lokak. 2022


ConferenceInnovating Higher Education Conference


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