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Evaluation of knowledge transfer in an immersive virtual learning environment for the transportation community.
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    Immersive Virtual Learning Environments (IVLEs) are extensively used in training, but few rigorous scientific investigations regarding the transfer of learning have been conducted. Measurement of learning transfer through evaluative methods is key for determining the likelihood of equivalent performance post-training intervention. Research has shown that immersive virtual learning environments are advantageous for training psychomotor activities and spatial activities, but it is unclear whether these environments are beneficial for memorizing a procedure. More important than the IVLE technology is the ability of IVLEs to provide higher critical thinking to learners. IVLEs are often implemented through the use of game-based technology, which is argued to hold the promise for fostering critical thinking skills and other 21st century skills. The role of a highway flagman is one that involves high-order problem solving and decision making skills due to variables, such as weather conditions, traffic complexity, multifaceted geographic settings, and multiple lane intersections, that impact a flagman’s final decisions regarding construction and/or maintenance work zone design and implementation. For this reason, it is critical for flaggers to receive highly transferable training so they can perform to the best of their ability. This research tested the use of an IVLE simulating real-world highway work zones. IVLEs go beyond traditional visual learning by presenting images that combine a new form of visual learning and virtual-experiential learning in a way that is more congruent with an individual’s visual images stored in memory, thus improving knowledge transfer and retention. The visual cues that the learner experiences in the virtual world are so similar to the visual cues in the real world that recall of virtual world lessons stored in memory are triggered by the same cues in the real world. Additionally, the student can experiment, make mistakes, and repeat the activity as often as necessary, achieving a virtual-experiential understanding of the concept that can only be duplicated in real-world experiential learning, which is often not practical. Such immersive engagement in the learning activity will allow the learners to move beyond the memorization of the presented concepts and into the application and synthesis of the material.
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