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Can Virtual Museums Motivate Students? Toward a Constructivist Learning Approach

Abstract

This study aims to assess the effectiveness of immersive environments that have been implemented by museums to attract new visitors. Based on the frameworks introduced by telepresence and media richness theories, and following a constructivist-based learning approach, we argue that the greater the similarity of an online museum experience is to its physical counterpart, the more positive will be the observer’s perception of the collection. We reason that the similarity would lead online visitors to develop greater cognitive involvement which in turn will produce more positive attitudes toward the collection. In support of this argument, we present the results of a comparative study in which 565 participants were exposed randomly to four different exhibitions: two-dimensional collections of art and aircraft museums and three-dimensional tours of similar museums. Results indicate that whereas 3D tours have a strong effect on users’ intentions to visit the real museum, cognitive involvement and sense of presence mediate the association between these variables. In terms of managerial implications, our study shows that if educational professionals want to stimulate their students to visit museums, 3D tours appear to be more effective for engaging learners through a realistic-looking environment. By offering richer perceptual cues and multimodal feedback (e.g., users can view 3D objects from multiple viewpoints or zoom in/out the objects), the study suggests that participants may increase their reasoning process and become more interested in cultural content.

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Correspondence to Daniel Halpern.

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Katz, J.E., Halpern, D. Can Virtual Museums Motivate Students? Toward a Constructivist Learning Approach. J Sci Educ Technol 24, 776–788 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-015-9563-7

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Keywords

  • Virtual museums
  • Telepresence
  • Visualization
  • User engagement
  • Cognitive involvement