Virginia Tech researcher bridges digital divide between museums and learning through interactive games

Virginia Tech researcher bridges digital divide between museums and learning through interactive games

September 26, 2017

Virginia Tech researcher bridges digital divide between museums and learning through interactive games
Replicas of the machinery used to make olive oil in the early 1900s in Greece were used in a board game that accompanied Apostolellis' virtual environment.

Museums have a captive audience in visitors who typically meander through static exhibits depicting various scenes of cultural and natural history. But in the new digital age, the museum audience is increasingly digitally savvy and accustomed to learning through interactive games and other forms of digital media.

A Virginia Tech researcher is helping to bridge the digital gaps that visitors experience in museums by studying virtual spaces that could serve to make institutions more interactive, social, and gamelike — and hopefully more appealing — to 21st century audiences.

Virginia Tech researcher bridges digital divide between museums and learning through interactive games

Panagiotis Apostolellis developed a virtual game that replicates the olive oil production process. His game facilitates learning and engagement for large student groups visiting museums.

 

Panagiotis Apostolellis developed a virtual game that replicates the olive oil production process. His game facilitates learning and engagement for large student groups visiting museums.

 

Panagiotis Apostolellis, an adjunct professor in the Department of Computer Science in Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, and a team of researchers assessed the ability of museums to provide young visitors with an enjoyable and augmented learning experience by harnessing the educational value of virtual environments and computer games for a large audience.

“Virtual environments have been used extensively for unguided, discovery-based learning in either individual or distributed educational settings where learning does not occur in one central location," said Apostolellis. "Our main objective was to test their effectiveness in supporting learning and sustaining engagement of small and large collocated student groups, especially in the context of informal learning settings like museums."

The test environment that Apostolellis and his team used was a virtual olive oil production factory from the 1920s, a setting that would be very familiar to students in Greece — a top olive-oil producing country — and conversely less so to students in the United States, the two locations where the study took place. Using these distinct groups gave the researchers the ability to measure engagement and learning across cultures using subsets that had little experience with the topic versus those that had a large amount of familiarity.

Virginia Tech researcher bridges digital divide between museums and learning through interactive games

Panagiotis Apostolellis holds a 3-D printed model stone mill used for grinding olives.

 

Apostolellis dubbed the virtual environment of the simulation 3-D game C-OLIVE: Collaboration Orchestrated Learning in Virtual Environments. C-OLIVE matched the goal and process of the game with specific learning outcomes, such as being able to replicate the olive oil production process.

Visitors to the museum exhibits and more than 800 students who played the game in public and private schools and summer camps in both Greece and the United States experienced the olive oil production process of a steam powered manufacturing factory of the 1920s using interactive game controllers.

> MORE