Analyzing the Effects of a 3D Online Virtual Museum in Visitors’ Discourse, Attitudes, Preferences, and Knowledge Acquisition

Analyzing the Effects of a 3D Online Virtual Museum in Visitors’ Discourse, Attitudes, Preferences, and Knowledge Acquisition

Adriana D’Alba (University of North Texas, USA) and Greg Jones (University of North Texas, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2815-1.ch002


This chapter presents the results of a study conducted in Mexico in 2011 with a group of undergraduate students. It examines the effectiveness of an online three-dimensional learning environment and its effects in visitors’ discourse, attitudes, preferences, and knowledge acquisition during and after a real museum visit. Primary results show that: a) participants who used the virtual museum previous to the museum visit showed an increase in discourse, enjoyment, and knowledge about the exhibition, and b) using a three dimensional previsualization can enhance and influence the learning experience in educational settings in a positive way.
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In 2010, a research team sponsored by the University of North Texas and the Autonomous University of the state of Mexico conducted a study in Toluca, Mexico. This study analyzed, compared, and measured usability, visitor attitudes, satisfaction, preferences, and knowledge acquisition between two groups of undergraduate students during a museum tour, one of which had used a virtual online Three Dimensional (3D) representation of the same museum located in the State of Mexico (Jones & D’Alba, 2012).

Although it was not the main focus of the project, the researchers noticed a difference between the discourse presented at the museum tour by students who previously had used a virtual representation and those who did not have the virtual experience.

While the students who had not previously used the virtual environment showed no engagement and almost no participation during the museum tour, the ones who had had the previous experience with the virtual environment were more involved, participative, and during a personal interview, all of them declared they were able to enjoy more the visit to the museum because they already knew what they were going to find. This situation required a new research to measure the impact that a virtual environment can have in the discourse, attitudes and engagement that visitors show in a certain museum exhibition, and to analyze if visitors that experience a virtual museum tour could have the same knowledge acquisition than the ones visiting the museum.

In 2011, one of the members of the research team traveled back to Mexico to conduct a second study, using a slightly higher number of participants, which also had similar demographic characteristics to the ones that took part in the first study.

The purpose of this new mixed methods study was to explore and to analyze visitors’ overall experience while they attended a museum exhibition, and to examine how this experience was affected by previously using a virtual online 3D representation of the museum itself. The study’s intention was to advocate for the use of self-guided virtual tours having more people accessing the information contained in the museums, encountering fewer barriers such as time, money, or distance required to travel to these sites. The following research questions drove the mix-method research:

  • In what ways does a pre-visualization of a virtual museum affect the museum experience?

  • In what ways visitors discourse is affected by previously experiencing a self-guided virtual tour of the same exhibition?

  • Can users of a self-guided virtual tour show gains in knowledge acquisition?

  • Can visitors who use a self-guided virtual tour and then attend the real museum tour show gains on knowledge acquisition, vs. those visitors experiencing only a museum tour?


Literature Review

Recent advances in information technology are allowing people to browse information in any order, rather than being constrained by the linear ordering of information in printed books, and computer micro-worlds are becoming more prevalent in educational programs. Therefore, there has been much excitement about the potential of these visualizations for improving education and training (Hegarty, 2004); however, little research has been conducted that might assist in using visuals and sound in an effective manner (Lai, 2000).

In 1999, several members of the World Wide Web Instructional Committee (WWWIC) published an article in the Journal of Network and Computer Applications (Slator, et al., 1999). This document stated that virtual environments for education must be designed to capitalize on the affordances provided by Virtual Environments (VEs). These included: control virtual time and collapse virtual distance; created shared spaces that are physical or practical impossibilities; implement shared agents and artifacts according to specific pedagogical goals; and support multi-user collaborations and competitive play. Some other characteristics for VE’s for education, according to the authors, could include role-based experiences, goal-oriented tasks, learn by doing activities, immersive and spatially oriented atmospheres, exploratory design, game-like projects, and unobtrusive tutoring.

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