Ngee Ann Polytechnic, SingaporePosition –
With the advent of technology and the internet, learners today have become more accustomed to interactive media and self-exploratory learning tools. As such, gamification and self-directed learning approaches can be attractive for learners due to the shift in the way they learn.
This paper presents an engineering simulation game built for a module called Thermofluids, offered to Year 1 Engineering students in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The aim of the game is to uplift the teaching and learning of engineering concepts and principles particularly in the domain of Thermofluids by providing students with an engaging, interactive, and self-paced learning experience. The game was developed in-house using the Unity3D game engine that allows for the creation of interactive 3D simulations and games; designed for self-directed learning which permits students to begin at a level that they can understand to construct knowledge at their own pace. The player experiences the game from a first-person perspective and takes up an intern persona who works in a sci-fi themed factory. The gameplay requires the player to complete a series of lessons, tasks and quizzes related to the topic of water pumps and steam systems.
An initial small-scale study was undertaken to evaluate the efficacy of this learning approach, two methods were used: an evaluation survey of 200 students and a performance comparison between an experimental group (with exposure to the game) and a control group (with no exposure to the game) in their ability to answer a pump design exam question which requires students to apply their knowledge on sizing the pump to meet certain design specifications. A hypothetical p-test at a 5% significant value was conducted to compare the performance between these two groups. The probability was found to be less than 0.05, indicating strong evidence that the experimental group's performance was significantly better than the control group, thus further supporting the hypothesis of the game being an effective reinforcement learning tool. In addition, the evaluation survey results showed that 70.5% of students agreed that they were able to understand the engineering concepts presented through the gameplay and 61.5% of students agreed that the game was effective in delivering the concepts to them. This study suggests that the use of gamification and self-directed learning pedagogy in simulation games can be an effective approach for enhancing engineering education.
Given the emergence of technological advancements like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, it is imperative for engineering education to keep up with industry demands. To achieve this, one promising approach is the utilization of virtual labs which provide students with practical training in a simulated environment. In this paper, the authors proposed the use of Matterport, a 3D camera and virtual tour platform, to create a virtual Thermofluids lab for Year 1 Engineering students in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Matterport's ability to create highly detailed and accurate 3D models of physical spaces makes it an ideal tool for building virtual labs. The virtual environment was furnished with instructional videos and simulation data to enhance interactivity.
The Matterport virtual lab was used as a substitute for in-person instructor-led lab for peri-corona home-based learning and as a supplementary learning resource for post-corona hybrid learning. To evaluate the efficacy of the Matterport virtual lab, the authors conducted a comparative analysis of students’ laboratory performance results for three different semesters (pre-corona, peri-corona, and post-corona periods) involving cohorts of 400 students each. There was a 4.3% deviation in the mean and median laboratory scores between the pre-corona and peri-corona results, indicating that students achieved similar learning outcomes and competencies while completing the perfect gas experiment solely through the virtual lab during peri-corona as compared to in-person instructor-led lab during pre-corona. Based on the same metrics, it was also observed that the post-corona results showed a 7.36% improvement compared to pre-corona results. This suggests that students seemed to be able to effectively use the virtual lab as a supplementary learning resource to enhance their learning. Furthermore, an evaluation survey conducted with the students revealed that on average, each student spent an extra 28.5 minutes on the virtual lab in addition to the 1-hour instructor-led experiment weekly. The 47.5% increase in time spent by each student in the lab during post-corona as compared to pre-corona may have contributed to the observed improvement in grades. These findings indicate that virtual labs have the potential to be an effective and efficient alternative to traditional face-to-face labs. Additionally, they serve as a flipped learning and recap tool that extends students’ learning, thus offering possibilities for enhancing engineering education.