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The Virtual reality electrical substation field trip: Exploring student perceptions and cognitive learning

Academic Editor: Jingjie Yeo

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  • COVID19 has disrupted many higher education's learning experiences, including those related to work integrated learning. This included the cancelling of the annual electrical engineering field trip to a local electrical substation. Field trips provides students an opportunity to connect their classroom learning with industry relevant engaging experiences. While virtual reality (VR) alternatives to electrical substations have been implemented and researched, the focus has been on the innovation and not on the educational benefits. The impact on learning is not well documented and understood. To address this gap an experimental study is conducted on fifty electrical engineering students at the University of Wollongong to determine if a VR replica of an electrical substation can provide an equal or better learning and student experience compared to traditional methods. A successful finding would provide confidence to implement such alternatives for situations that include: addressing COVID disruptions; for students that miss the field trip; and for providers that don't have the funds or resources to visit a substation. It was found that the VR substation simulation provided a comparable student experience and stronger cognitive learning benefits than traditional methods. Further research is needed to explore learning impact beyond the cognitive domain.

    Mathematics Subject Classification: Research article.


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  • Figure 1.  Distance view of simulation environment

    Figure 2.  Drawing in correct location with correct text

    Table 1.  Questionnaire results (substation visit/virtual reality)

    Category Questions Average score (substation) Average score (virtual reality) Difference between traditional and VR Significance level
    Learning Contents 1. I understood most of the learning contents throughout the teaching activity 3.7 3.9 0.2
    P = 0.8282
    2. I can identify the major components in an electrical substation and what they look like after the teaching activity 3.6 4.1 0.5
    P = 0.6045
    3. I understood the operation of major components within a substation during the teaching activity 3.6 3.8 0.2
    P = 0.8525
    4. The learning activity provided useful knowledge on electrical substations 3.6 4.1 0.5
    P = 0.6045
    5. The learning activity was helpful at learning components in an electrical substation and their operation 3.7 4.0 0.3
    P = 0.7560
    Operational Experience 6. It was easy to coordinate through the teaching activity 3.8 3.8 0.0
    P = 1.0000
    7. The speed and execution of the teaching activity was easy to keep up with 3.0 4.4 1.4
    P = 0.1642
    8. The teaching activity was not disorienting 3.9 3.4 0.5
    P = 0.6235
    9. The teaching activity motivated me to learn more about electrical substations 4.0 4.4 0.4
    P = 0.6344
    10. I am satisfied by the experience of the learning activity 4.3 4.3 0.0
    P = 1.0000
    Total 37.2 40.2 3.0
    P = 0.7545
    *Statistical Significance (P < 0.05)
     | Show Table
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    Table 2.  Overview of pre-test and post-test results

    Achievement Test Mean Standard Error of the mean Standard Deviation
    Control Group
    Pre-Test 8.5333 0.1919 0.7432
    Post-Test 11.2667 0.3581 1.3870
    Experimental Group
    Pre-Test 8.4000 0.2545 0.9856
    Post-Test 13.6667 0.2702 1.0465
     | Show Table
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