Simulated Marine Engineering: Immersive Virtual Reality in Maritime Education and Training
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For decades simulators have been embedded in the formal education in the field of marine engineering, for training and assessment of competences and proficiencies. A new era of simulator technology, by the use of head mounted display virtual reality, is emerging to the field of maritime education and is currently unexplored in the context of marine engineer training. This is an experimental study with the latest technological increment which was conducted with a prototype immersive virtual reality simulator and a commercial 3D virtual reality desktop simulator. By means of this novel head mounted display virtual reality and the more familiar desktop option, the purpose of this study was to explore these technologies through the potential end user. A classic between-groups experimental design was developed with a simulation exercise of starting a fuel oil separator for the treatment and tested with two marine engineering student groups and one group of professional engineer officers. The recruited sample frame was assigned either to the (i) 3D virtual reality desktop group (n=5), (ii) immersive virtual reality novice group (n=6) or the (iii) immersive virtual reality expert group (n=6). Instruments of declarative knowledge tests were constructed for measuring prior knowledge prerequisite to the study, and for measuring accuracy and accessibility of retaining knowledge acquired in the treatment. The results gained a significant difference in knowledge acquisition between the two technologies (P=0.005) and between the group competence levels (P=0.008). Instruments for measuring mental workload and the flow state were adopted from the original frameworks to describe the experience. No technology discrimination could be observed, though the group level experience measures indicated some difference and yielded subservient effect sizes and significance.