Impact of a VR/AR Module on First-Year Students' Understanding of Architectural Engineering: A Comparison Across Demographics

Morgan McArthur, Heidi Diefes-Dux, Erica Ryherd

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Architectural Engineering (AE) programs typically offer programs of study in at least two subdisciplines that relate to building design and construction. AE students may struggle to select a subdiscipline due to their low exposure and engagement with topics that would inform their decision. Previous research indicates that the immersive nature of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) can increase students' engagement and motivation regarding course content and discipline decisions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a pilot browser-based virtual reality intervention on first-year AE students' understanding of the AE subdisciplines and choice for future study, with particular attention to demographic subgroup differences. This pilot was a testbed for a larger set of Virtual/Augmented-Reality-Based Discipline Exploration Rotations (VADERs), which are instructional modules that engage students in authentic AE tasks. In Fall 2020, the pilot VADER-1 module was incorporated into first-year AE courses at one R1 university and one R2 historically black university. This module encouraged students to explore AE subdisciplines through the virtual design of a clinic. Pre-post intervention surveys were used to investigate change in students' understanding of AE and its subdisciplines. Students reported that their subdiscipline understanding increased significantly. Further, 74% of students reported an increase in their confidence in their choice, and over 30% of students changed their top subdiscipline choice. Some slight differences between demographic subgroups were found. VR/AR interventions hold promise for providing AE students with needed exposure to the practice of the discipline and its subdisciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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