Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 791–806 | Cite as

A One-year Case Study: Understanding the Rich Potential of Project-based Learning in a Virtual Reality Class for High School Students

  • Teresa M. Morales
  • EunJin Bang
  • Thomas Andre


This paper presents a qualitative case analysis of a new and unique, high school, student-directed, project-based learning (PBL), virtual reality (VR) class. In order to create projects, students learned, on an independent basis, how to program an industrial-level VR machine. A constraint was that students were required to produce at least one educational application of VR. This study incorporated in-depth classroom observations, interviews with students, analyses of student projects, and surveys of parents and teachers to examine the social and learning processes in the class, and the nature of content learning represented in student projects. The results demonstrated that PBL can be effective even with minimal teacher guidance. The findings substantiate an educational approach rich with promise, for at least some students, that deserves considerable additional study to maximize its powerful potentials for independent and peer-mentored learning.


High school science Project-based learning (PBL) Virtual reality (VR) Social dynamics 



The authors of this paper would like to extend a sincere thank you to all the students, parents, and teachers who participated in this study. A special thank you also goes to Tyler whose expertise guided us to a firm understanding of the technical aspects of this research. We would also like to extend an additional thank you to Principal Rex Kozak, and to the Mayo Clinic, for planting the very first seeds of the Virtual Reality Design class in the state of Iowa.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academic and Youth ProgramsMuseum of Science and IndustryTampaUSA
  2. 2.School of EducationIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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