Explorations in Three-Dimensional User Interfaces for Learning Environments

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Title: Explorations in Three-Dimensional User Interfaces for Learning Environments
Author: Casstevens, Randy Mark
Advisors: Robert St. Amant, Committee Member
James Lester, Committee Chair
Patrick FitzGerald, Committee Member
Abstract: Computerized learning environments have the potential to dramatically improve the pedagogical effectiveness of the educational process. The computer will not replace the teacher in the classroom, but it could play a significant role in the students' education. The computerized learning environment could provide each student an interactive, custom lesson. This thesis examines how to develop a three-dimensional user interface that would improve the learning environment. We draw examples from two three-dimensional learning environments; the Steve and PhysViz projects. This thesis discusses four stages of the software development cycle (analysis, design, prototyping, and evaluation) to consider when developing a three-dimensional user interface. We first describe the potential characteristics of a learning environment that benefit from a three-dimensional interface. Next we explore the use of interaction metaphors and affordances in a three-dimensional learning environment. We found that direct manipulation of the interface can be very useful for a learning environment and also saw how this can be facilitated by affordances. After the design considerations, we begin examining issues that arise when prototyping a three-dimensional learning environment. Our discussion focuses on issues we encountered with Java 3D when implementing our three-dimensional world for the PhysViz project. We also introduce some ideas about camera control, navigation of the student, and the display of text. Finally, we propose an evaluation plan for three-dimensional user interfaces for learning environments. This thesis provides software developers of learning environments with a guide to the advantages and disadvantages of using a three-dimensional interface. From developing PhysViz, a physics tutorial application, we found that a three-dimensional interface was beneficial. The additional dimension added to the richness of the interface and improved the pedagogical effectiveness of our learning environment.
Date: 2003-11-07
Degree: MS
Discipline: Computer Science
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/411

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