Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Key words

Virtual Reality, Pilot Training, Simulations


Aviation training in the immersive Virtual Reality (VR) world has the power to overcome physical constraints, presenting cues and stimuli that would not be available in flight, nor in a two-dimensional (2D) environment. This gives VR powerful potential as a simulation tool for learning complex skills and maneuvers in the cockpit. This study evaluated the effectiveness of VR simulations as compared to traditional 2D desktop simulations in teaching maneuvers and skills to ab initio (inexperienced) civilian pilot trainees. This quasi-experimental project involved 17 freshman pilot students in an experimental college course at a private university campus in the fall semester of 2020. The participants were split into two sections: Section 1 completed CBT activities and simulations in 2D only, while Section 2 completed CBT activities in 2D and simulations in VR. Academic performance data was collected in the Canvas Learning Management System, broken down by understanding of a maneuver learned in a given lesson module. Descriptive statistics collected included quizzes, discussion board activity, and simulation completion scores. Paired samples t-tests compared perceived benefits of using the various course materials. Researchers also administered post-semester surveys to gather both qualitative and quantitative data, in which participants shared their perceptions of the course, preference for learning material type, and general feedback. Results indicated that students in both groups found the sims/tutorials and VR to be enjoyable and gratifying; the majority of students indicated that simulations were preferred over other learning materials. Early results indicate that although the students perceived that the simulations were beneficial, there were no significant differences in the final course scores or learning rates between those who utilized 2D sims as opposed to VR sims. The most important finding is that for ab initio pilots, VR simulations do not hinder learning mastery, as compared with traditional 2D desktop simulations.





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