Received: 25.10.2020; Revision: 04. 11.2020; Accepted: 09. 11.2020; Published: 11. 11.2020
Department of Innovative Design and Entrepreneurship Management, Far East University, Taiwan, R.O.C
Abstract: In order to deeply understand the effect of virtual learning on students’ problem-solving ability, the study selected three students to be the interviewees to understand the perspectives of the students that come from different levels. The results indicated that the students all presented very favorable comments on the different learning instrument.
Keywords: virtual learning, interview, problem-solving ability.
The highly developed virtual reality (VR) technology in recent decades greatly improved learning in different areas of education. One of VR technology’s most attractive features is that it provides learners with a real-like environment, which makes repeated learning, become possible. Moreover, in order to understand the effect of a 3D (three-dimensional) situational learning on students’ problem-solving ability, the researcher designed a 3D virtual company (3DVC) for a class of business students to practice how to solve ill-structured problems. In 3DVC, the participants have to play the role of a general manager to fix different complex and hard problems reported by department heads. The participants were guided to provide solution alternatives by prompts developed by prior research (Sinnott, 1989; Voss & Post, 1988). In order to bring out the participants’ potential and train them to be organized in problem solving, before logging out, they have to finish reading “Expert model”, which is developed by a group of professionals after careful discussion.
Moreover, past research also suggested that a digital-based learning environment might be effective to enhance motivation (Johnson & Huang, 2008; Kebritchi & Hirumi, 2008) and learning performance (Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2003) From today’s viewpoint, learning is not merely memorizing but a meaningful knowledge construction process supported by personal experiential experiences. Therefore, utilizing a motivational learning environment that meets the four perceptual components such as Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (ARCS) (Keller, 1987a, 1987b) could address the reasons to drive learning motivation and why the learning performances are improved (Astleitner & Wiesner, 2004). From another viewpoint, how to make learning be more applicable and helpful would also be a critical issue.
Based on the above, the purpose of the present study is therefore to explore the effects of a virtual experiential learning and problem-solving ability from qualitative standpoint.
As noted previously, the three interviewees approximately presented the higher, middle, and lower academic performance respectively in the class. To easily distinguish each one from the others, they are coded A, B, and C.
The researcher developed the codes by thoroughly examining the contents of the interview data. The codes grouped data into the following three categories: problem solving, features in learning and other psychological issues. The eight subcategories then emerged from the previous three varieties.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Making complex problems more organized
The interviewees highly commented on the devise: “I think the contents are very clear and the solution alternatives are good. I think it’s of help for us because we cannot do it so well.” (Student A). It is because the participants are novices, if the participants had not been provided with opportunities to observe how the others do, they would probably follow the same thinking to solve similar problems next time, and then the function of the test would be in vain. So the interviewees replied: “It is, it is because we are not experienced [in ill-structured problem solving], so I think the expert model let us understand how to fix the problems logically. It’s not bad!” (Student B). “Well, because the problems you gave us are so complicated, if you had not given us the expert model, then we next time probably answer or fix the similar problems based on our thoughts rather than a more systematic way. So you should always give us guidance as much as possible, so I can get high scores.” (Student C).
The results proved that the solution guidance and the expert model designed in the system is beneficial in clarify the participants’ problem-solving thinking.
Providing situational incentives
It is noteworthy that the scenes designed in the 3DVC training provides learners with fidelity and eased them when facing complex cases, for example: “The scene is simple, but it is different from class learning. Didn’t you see that I was so serious in doing the job? ……. I mean the different background drove us to put ourselves into the problems…… It’s unique. The scene, the sound effect and the feeling pushed me to answer the questions very carefully. I have no idea if I will be a good manager in the future, but at least I’ve tried my best.” (Student C). The results demonstrate that a learning environment that provides learners with different psychological perception or situational inducement leads to learners’ higher engagement, which is in light with the prior research (Hedberg & Alexander, 1994).
Past research (Shih,2006) reported that if students are confident in their learning, they might perform as expected. In other words, if their self-efficacy is high, then their problem-solving ability may be increased simultaneously. The so-called self-efficacy is an internal motivational factor that plays a critical role in learning (McRobbie & Thomas, 2000; Roth & Tobin, 2001). In this regard, the learning system designed in the present study is contributive in promoting students’ self-efficacy. For example, an interviewee replied in the interview: “… though we were not good at academy, we are not to be looked down in terms of problem solving.” (Student C). Therefore, students’ self-efficacy in academic program would effectively forecast their subsequent academic performance (Meece, Wigfield, & Eccles, 1990). The results provide evidence that the present study is of contribution in promoting students’ problem-solving self-efficacy.
Subverting traditional instruction
The present study integrated 3D technology and problem-solving concepts to develop the 3DVC learning system, the researcher’s original thinking was to find out another way to facilitate students’ problem-solving ability rather than challenge or replace the traditional instruction, it is surprising that the training obtained the participants’ very positive comments. For example, they answered: “[The system is really] CCCCOOOOL! “ (Student C); “It’s different!…. I mean, of the above two cases [traditional test and 3DVC], 3DVC is special obviously” (Student B).
Therefore, the present study suggests educators improve students’ learning interest and performance by utilizing modern advanced computer technology as possible as they can because one may agree that traditional instruction does not mean no good, but sometimes “if you can use a different way to do a usual thing, then the effect is different.” (Student A).
Providing multi-modal perception feedback
When the interviewees were asked to express their opinions about the learning system, one of them said: “In a whole, the feeling, the sense, and the experience, a lot are special and different from class learning….. I felt that I was really WALKING INTO the company when the gate opened. I mean, this is what we could not sense in the usual class learning…….” The “walking into” perception is the so-called presence, which is reported to be critical in learning performance by the prior study (Regian, Shebilske, & Monk1992).
Enhancing learning motivation
Based on the researcher’s observation, young students often shrink from difficulty rather than bravely face it; it is probably because that their motivation is not strong enough. Ideally, if we can guide them to face the problems with a healthy attitude and involve them more to the problem solving, the results would be improved. Prior research has noted that a digital-based learning environment might be effective to enhance motivation (Johnson & Huang, 2008; Kebritchi & Hirumi, 2008) and learning performance (Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2003).
For example, another interviewee replied in the interview: “Traditional tests mostly examine our memory ability, but a test like 3DVC constructs nervous [compelling] air to push us to do one thing in a more devoted manner……I tried to define the problem in a short time, because in the 3D environment, I felt that I was the boss, I understood that if you can’t see the problem as quick as possible, then you would lose the best opportunity to fix the problems.” (Student A);
The above results are in accordance with the prior research, which reported that a situated 3D leaning environment “can be used to facilitate experiential learning tasks that lead to increased intrinsic motivation and engagement” (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010, p.20).
Interesting and unique
“Really interesting!”; “…though the background is simple, the process is interesting! I’ve never been taught by the special way since I was a student”. (Student B);
“Yeh, interesting and fresh.”(Student A).
“I’ve tried very hard. The learning is unique and unforgettable!” (Student C).
Based on the interviewees’ comments, the present study argues that learning problem solving does not necessary to rely on traditional thinking because we always have to revise the fixed concepts to adapt to the changing world. Therefore, how to skillfully enhance students’ learning interest and properly guide the learners to directly face the problems is the key point to success.
After thoroughly reviewing the interview contents, the researcher found that the young students extremely preferred to be taught in the way that is different from the traditional one, for example: “The situation of usual class learning is forever the same, which makes our thinking dull. Though the teacher works hard on the platform, we forget the most after the class….” (Student C). The results again revealed the importance of experiential learning, which stressed that an experiential learning environment that is integrated with computer technology would make knowledge transference become possible (Turney, Robinson, Lee, & Soutar, 2009).
Despite of the interviewees’ youth, they clearly pointed out the difference between the usual class learning and the training in terms of ill-structured problem solving: “…instructors taught us in their usual ways. And we have to recite a lot when the tests are coming….. if we can be taught by something new, I think it will be more excited!” (Student A); “I think, using traditional instruction to teach how to solve problems is not so effective, because…the customary teaching is mostly text-based, which, I think, cannot give us the real sense………, fighting on the paper does not make much sense. If we can do something by ourselves, that will be very good!” (Student B). The contents above reflected that the modern young generation look forward to “learning by doing”, which is justly in accordance the essence of situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991).
The results again inspired educators that a 3D situated instruction can provide learners with a real sense and a “hands-on” experience, which is quite advantageous and competitive when compared with the traditional text- or lectured-based instruction. It is anticipated that the technique would be more applicable and beneficial in education and enhance students’ learning performance.
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