Teaching Safety in Design in Large Classes using VR

Sally Male, Patrick Kenworthy, Ghulam Hassan, Andrew Guzzomi, Tom Van Der Veen, Timothy French

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperConference paperpeer-review

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Safety in design is an important topic in engineering education for which practical experiences are likely to be beneficial but logistically difficult, and high risk. Virtual reality (VR) offers the possibility for students to learn from an interactive experience without the inconveniences and safety hazards in real site visits. However, one of the challenges of using VR is providing learning experiences to large classes of students.

This study investigated the efficacy of VR for teaching safety in design, and an approach to accommodate VR with large numbers of students. Students learned about safety in design in workshops, using a VR environment. They worked in groups in which only one member wore the VR headset and others observed.
The research question addressed by this study is ‘How can VR be used for teaching large cohorts?’
The second author developed a VR environment in which students operate a vehicle loading crane, based on a design that had been associated with fatalities. Workshops were held in two 5th year engineering design units (one electrical stream and one mechanical stream) taken by 280 students in total. Students completed a standard construction hazard analysis implementation review (CHAIR). In each group of three to eight students, one student used the VR and others observed that student and their VR headset view displayed on a screen. Each group then extended their CHAIR taking account of learning from the VR activity.

The completed CHAIR templates, participants’ demographics and evaluations were collected from consenting students and teaching team members, and the researchers recorded notes during the workshops.
On average students agreed that they identified additional risks after the VR experience regardless of whether they wore the headset. Teaching team members reported that usually quiet students, who were often international students, participated more actively in the group discussions than in their usual weekly group meetings. Analysis of the completed CHAIR templates will be reported elsewhere.
It is feasible to use VR with large cohorts by offering the immersive experience to a sample of students. The other students can learn by observing both the student wearing the headset and that student’s VR projection.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 29th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference
Subtitle of host publicationThe future Engineer: Accounting for Diversity
Place of PublicationHamilton, New Zealand
PublisherUniversity of Waikato
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2018
Event29th Australasian Association for Endineering Education Conference: The Future Engineer: Accounting for Diversity - Hamilton, New Zealand
Duration: 9 Dec 201812 Dec 2018
Conference number: 29


Conference29th Australasian Association for Endineering Education Conference
Abbreviated titleAAEE
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address


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