Simulated Learning, Real Results

2 minute read

Learning interactively is learning more.

Mr. Michael Zurba, BSc. BEd. PBDE. MEd., a graduate student at the time, conducted a study through the University of Manitoba to figure out whether students benefited from the use of virtual simulation while learning to build and program physical robots. He chose The Virtual Robotics Toolkit (VRT) to help answer this question.

What did he do?

He looked at the learning behaviours of 12 students, interested specifically in how engaged they were. His intrigue was based on the premise that interactive learning results in deeper understanding than any other learning style within Chi & Wylie’s ICAP (Interactive, Constructive, Active, Passive) framework. This framework suggests that levels of learning and engagement will increase as levels of interactivity increase.

These students, in grades ranging between 9 and 12, were sorted randomly into three groups. The students in the first group were given LEGO EV3 robots, individual students in the second group were only given access to the Virtual Robotics Toolkit; they had no physical contact with the EV3 robots. The third group of students were allowed to use both.

How were the results measured?

The results were measured over a two-week learning period consisting of nine lunch hours; six of which being learning days and three being competition days. To record data, Zurba asked students to maintain daily learning logs, in which they answered 10 questions if applicable to what they learned on a given day.

Further, observations of the students were recorded during the three competition days. After the study, four participants were selected as interviewees and asked to provide reasons for certain levels of engagement throughout the study.

What did he notice?

Zurba determined that the use of VRT is beneficial to students while they learn to build and program robots, provided that they have access to a physical robot simultaneously. The combined EV3/VRT group showed the most total interactive behaviours over all nine days, and in addition to learning more, they also behaved in ways that fostered increased group collaboration and leadership. These high-level learning behaviours indicated higher levels of engagement and advanced learning.

Figure: Competition Day observations, ICAP learning behaviour events,
Groups 1 and 2 combined.

What does this mean?

Interactive learning is better learning – simulation software paired with hands-on experience lays the foundation for 21st century skills that will be essential for the workforce of tomorrow.

What’s next?

Read the full thesis:
Connect with Mr. Zurba –

Follow the Virtual Robotics Toolkit’s journey as they change the way the world learns, works, and plays!

Facebook – @cogmation
Twitter – @cogmation
Instagram – @virtualroboticstoolkit
YouTube – Virtual Robotics Toolkit
LinkedIn – Cogmation Robotics

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