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Journal of Visualization

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 889–904 | Cite as

Improving graphic expression training with 3D models

  • Francisco Javier Ayala AlvarezEmail author
  • Elidia Beatriz Blazquez Parra
  • Francisco Montes Tubio
Regular Paper

Abstract

Spatial vision is critical to understanding all other knowledge to be taught in all technical fields. Students need the ability to determine the three-dimensional shape of an object from its two-dimensional graphic representation. After using drawings in both two and three dimensions on the backboard, an opportunity to use digital media in various more interactive ways is proposed to change the ways in which the content is presented. Such digital tools include augmented reality, PDF3D or 3D visualization software like SketchUp. This article shows how 3D ICT objects can help communication for the compression of terrains represented by contours when they are not completely understood. It also discusses how to proceed to obtain them and the advantages and disadvantages of the three ways of visualization chosen. Conducting classes in Vocational training with the help of 3D models can ensure the achievement of the general objectives of the course of work with contours; with graphic origin, (obtaining profiles, earthworks, embankments, design vials or zoning), or mathematical origin, (sloping, modules, height differences, dimensions). The evaluation of these elements has been done to observe their acceptance and usability, not only in an educational environment, but also in a professional environment, since these models have been used to develop projects of urbanization, in internships in companies in real environments to explain these projects to customers.

Graphical Abstract

Keywords

3D virtual models Augmented reality PDF3D Contours 

1 Introduction

One fundamental professional competence of a technician in the environment of architecture or engineering is to develop models, drawings and presentations in 2D and 3D to facilitate the viewing and understanding of projects.

Therefore, throughout the course of their studies, students of the technical specialties, STEM and AEC, must acquire a domain of graphic expression in the different systems of representation, showing a correct perception of space and form, with an ability to recognize their properties in order to resolve later problems. This is important not only in subjects related to graphic expression, but also in learning from other disciplines, such as the sciences (Black 2005), maths (Winkel 1997), chemistry (Barke 1993) or medicine (Eyal and Tendick 2001), as it helps to establish relationships between the real and the abstract model that represents this reality (Alias, Black and Gray 2002), and significantly influences the capacity to successfully complete the exercises (Alias, Black and Gray 2003). A systematic literature review has been reported (Bacca et al. 2014). In these environments, some studies have confirmed the relationship between spatial skills control and levels of future academic and professional success (Leopold, Sorby, and Gorska 1996; Ursyn 1997; Adánez and Velasco 2002).

However, “teaching of spatial geometry is often disassociated with concepts of plane geometry” (Moraco and Pirola 2005), assuming that students have already mastered the content. However, it is crucial that a relationship is established between spatial and plane geometry concepts in pedagogic practice, since both are present in everyday life, and are found in product packages design, architecture of buildings, plots of land, among others.

Accordingly, in the process of learning graphical expression, three-dimensional visuals are helpful to clarify these new explanations, since they help students who have minimal prior training or have learning difficulties in the perception of space and form, directly relating spatial geometry with plane geometry.

To achieve this, the teacher can use gestural figurations with simple objects, perspective sketches on the blackboard, models executed with various materials or more current means of displaying graphical information in the classroom. This is the case of 3D elements viewed through the computer screen using augmented reality (AR), SketchUp (SKP) or PDF3D which are the three types of 3D digital models used in this investigation, (see Fig. 1 for general idea).
Fig. 1

SKP, AR and PDF3D display examples in class

SKP models are 3D objects done with Trimble SketchUp (Trimble Navigation Limited 2015) and they can be directly observed with this program. From these files it is possible to obtain PDF3D (Adobe Systems Incorporated 2015) and AR 3D objects, observed through Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended or Aumentaty Viewer (Aumentaty 2015), in our case, respectively.

An augmented reality program was employed. To observe AR 3D models, a computer, a web-cam and a marker are required. If markers are captured on the screen of the device through the specific application of AR, this program projects the desired image of the 3D model on the marker, as displayed in Fig. 2.
Fig. 2

Use of augmented reality

In Figs. 3, 4, 5 and 6, it is possible to observe the use in class. The student performs the drawing to represent the earthworks exercise on a paper, while the virtual earthworks object is seen in a screen from different points of view in 3D. It is thought that the simultaneous interaction with 3D and 2D objects when doing exercises (Vander Wall 1981) can engender the mental processes required to find the solutions to the posed problems (Miller 1992). These 3D models in class make the invisible visible to understand the earthworks exercises using ICT.
Fig. 3

Whiteboard with 3D vision on PC

Fig. 4

Calculation of terrain profile using SKP

Fig. 5

Spatial visualization with AR

Fig. 6

Triangulation to create contour lines

It is possible to determine beforehand the limitations of some of the traditional media (compared with virtual media) when presenting information, which include the expertise of the artist, the speed of presentation, storage space, or the manufacturing time and costs, among others.

Some of these restrictions also affect virtual media in 3D, based on Information Technology and Communication (ICT), but have the advantage of using the visual language, which is more familiar to the students, since it is consistent with the language normally used in the audio-visual world.

In addition, new ITC tools allow for the use of procedures that act directly in a three dimensional environment (Fernandez Alvarez 2010). Through these models, students can observe the elements represented from different points of view, and in some cases, see the orthographic views of the object with a single click. Furthermore, the student is allowed to interact with them using twists, zoom and, in some cases, changing the transparency and appearance as well as doing sections.

1.1 Differences between utilized 3D models

The software used is SKP, PDF3D or AR, either desktop (primarily) or mobile. For the first two, we only need to have the program and the file to see the model, and it is managed with the mouse. However, for the AR model, we need the markers and a camera, which requires the distribution of resources and can slow down the class. Table 1 summarizes the differences observed between the three technologies used.
Table 1

Comparison between different files provided

Element to observe

SKP

PDF3D

AR

Camera/marker

No

No

Yes

Mobile technology

No

No

Yes

Modifiable

Yes

No

No

Movements in all directions

Yes

Yes

No

Prospects

Yes

Yes

Yes

Direct orthogonal views

Yes

Yes

No

Direct axonometric projection

Yes

Yes

No

Cylinder/conical vision

Yes

No

No

Zoom

Yes

Yes

Yes

Control size of 3D model

Mouse

Mouse

Distance camera-marker

Turns

Yes

Yes

Yes

Effects

Flash pulse/mirror effect

Profiles

Direct quick

Slow/only the main

Means different files

Display

Background

Modifiable

Background

Modifiable

Virtual on reality

Several models per file

Yes

No

Yes

2 Academic context

This educational proposal begins in Vocational Training in an experimental context that aims to integrate 3D shapes to present content in the teaching–learning process through the use of different tools.

Improving the development of the spatial abilities of students is an attempt to achieve a way of approaching the teaching–learning process that arouses the motivation and interest of students, considering their prior capabilities and learning rates.

In this research project, 3D models are conceived as intuitive and interactive learning tools for enhancing the speed and degree of students’ knowledge acquisition due to the establishment of the relationship between the three-dimensional volumes supplied and the two-dimensional graphical representations that are commonly used in technical drawings.

These models have been used for interpreting topographical plans with their different applications, such as handling contours for the development of urban projects, and understanding planning regulations and earthworks, among others.

3 Objectives/research questions

The identifiable problems inherent in learning graphic expression have already been described. To verify whether or not 3D models can help students to solve these problems, the following research objectives have been formulated and a study has been conducted to address them.
  • Q1. To analyze whether the models modify the perceived development of the spatial visualization ability.

  • Q2. To measure the changes in the learning outcomes due to the three-dimensional models.

  • Q3. To analyse the mechanisms that can be highlighted from the experience, both positively and negatively.

  • Q4. To gauge the usability of the 3D models.

  • Q5. To compare the various visualization tools chosen and to determine whether there is one that stands out in particular.

The aim is to obtain an analysis of the degree of acceptance of three-dimensional models along with an evaluation of the technologies used by students.

4 Method

All materials created were organized into several themes that develop knowledge and handling of contours throughout the course, and students are surrounded by the information in various ways. This has been applied to a large number of subjects ranging from the drawing and understanding of contours, the deduction of mathematical parameters from them, through to handling of these elements to make earthworks and profiles of terrain. Finally, students develop an urbanization plan of an area.

The subject is taught for 4 h a week in three weekly sessions, one session of 2 h and two sessions of an hour. The lessons are primarily taught using 3D models, although some of the classes are conducted without viewing these 3D objects to evaluate the differences between classes conducted with and without 3D models. More than 60 three-dimensional models were used to develop the classes.

It should be noted that the development of these themes runs from low to high difficulty. The topics will be interspersed with a range of other subjects of the curriculum, some of which are related to the topography and others to the other themes. Further, all of the topics are introduced according to the students’ knowledge.

To implement the learning procedure it is necessary to have available a computer room, where a teacher presents explanations using the computer with a web-cam and video cannon, allowing students to view their models on their computers at the same time. The room lights are switched on, but the lighting is subtle.

It is also true that, thanks to rapid new technological advances, it is possible to implement these practices almost anywhere, using smartphones or tablets and free applications (these devices are currently available to the majority of students).

In our case, there was one student per computer with a camera, and some students had a smartphone to complement the vision from the computer screen with their mobile device, as shown in Fig. 7.
Fig. 7

Using augmented reality app

The students are free to observe the different models as often as they wish throughout theory classes and when performing the exercises.

The elements necessary to carry out the experience are those that allow manipulation of 3D models, while 2D representations were appropriately presented.

In this section, there are no demanding hardware requirements, a 1 Gb graphics card is sufficient.

To see different 3D models, different types of office software are needed: Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended (Adobe Systems Incorporated 2015) for PDF3D, Trimble SketchUp (Trimble Navigation Limited 2015) for SKP and management programs of Augmented reality AR: Aumentaty Author to develop models, and Aumentaty Viewer to see them (Aumentaty 2015).

Information can be supplemented with mobile devices, smartphones or tablets, which have an app capable of displaying AR: Aumentaty viewer app, (Aumentaty 2015).

The distribution of files is conducted by using a pen drive, (if the files are heavy), although this task is made easier with good Internet access to share information by Moodle (2015).

To display the items in AR, a web-cam and printed markers are also required. The markers have ergonomic dimensions of 7.00 × 7.00 cm, printed on A-5 paper, and placed on a rigid lid. Reference to the markers along with the two-dimensional representation to be magnified might be included in the notes provided in class to solve problem(s), theory or task(s), as shown in Fig. 8. In addition, the number of the activity or the figure is the name of the file to be used use. Each student was also provided with a worksheet and a guide containing steps to assist them in the process.
Fig. 8

Example of worksheet and marker

4.1 Procedure

Since the implementation of this experience, it has been found that the incorporation of 3D models does not require any changes to the instructional model. Therefore, independently of the used model, 3D models are tools that can be used to facilitate the active involvement of students in the learning process. Further, 3D models are compatible with both traditional and innovative instructional models of teaching, such as the instructional model based on educational competences.

It was not possible to separate the participants into two groups. Thus, all students have used all the technologies under study and have assessed these new ways of seeing 3D models to evaluate their use.

The theoretical model of assessment of knowledge acquisition followed in this study has been the one developed (Nunes et al. 2014), and this has been used as a way of verifying how and how much the 3D virtual learning environment contributes to aid the knowledge acquisition process.

The experimental process has nine phases:
  1. 1.

    Delimitation of the experiment. Definition of spaces, materials, applications, subject, students, technologies (AR, SketchUp, PDF3D).

     
  2. 2.

    Profile test Characterization of students’ profile. Definition of demographic data: user profiles in computer and academic knowledge.

     
  3. 3.

    Initial assessment test. Evaluation of prior experience and initial level of knowledge of contours.

     
  4. 4.
    Preparation of 3D models and exercises. Creation of 3D models and associated activities in order to complement the topics. Regarding the preparation of the material, we followed guidelines explained in Fig. 9.
    Fig. 9

    Obtaining digital models

     
  5. 5.

    Training in 3D technologies. Before the learning process, the students received the exercises, fiducial markers, files, instructions to handle 3D models, and a guide with theoretical and procedural aspects of the exercises. (Teacher intervention was kept to a minimum when the students were working with 3D models).

     
  6. 6.

    Learning process with 3D models. Use of different types of 3D models in class, on their computer.

     
  7. 7.

    Surveys about the personal opinions of students. Collection of data about the students’ satisfaction, preferences, quality, benefits and difficulties of the 3D models.

     
  8. 8.

    Final assessment test. Assessment of the level of content acquisition and handling of contours.

     
  9. 9.

    Comparison of academic results. Analysis of academic results from the point at which the 3D models were introduced in class.

     

4.2 Sample and population

The study was carried out during the following academic years: 2012–2015, including all the students enrolled on the course: G1 with 13 students, 2012–2013; G2, including 16 students, 2013–2014; and G3, including 25 students, 2014–2015, (see Table 2). The 2012–2013 academic year was used to deliver an introductory course for the visualization tools to define the student’s profile. For the other two groups, 13–14 G2 and 14–15 G3 we ran the full analysis of these technologies. The large group of the study, GG, included 54 students formed by adding together the students from G1, G2, and G3. All of the students in the GG group had taken the first year of Professional Training in Building Projects. We think these number of participant is small but sufficient because this study is preliminary and introductory of other in which we hope it could be possible generalize these techniques of visualization with a bigger group of student and in all areas of technical draw. However, some questions have been answered by fewer people. In some cases, they did not attend class or dropped out of school because of external causes. The number of participants of each question is indicated in each of the sections of this study. All the data were analyzed using Excel (Microsoft) and SPSS (IBM) software, (p < 0.05).
Table 2

Participants’ data

Vocational education

Group

Subgroup

Course

Number

Total

Building projects

GG

G1

2012–2013

13

54

G2

2013–2014

16

G3

2014–2015

25

4.3 Instruments

With respect to research instruments, we focused on the group most directly involved in managing 3D models: the students.

At the beginning, Q0, questionnaires were used in an attempt to determine the personal, technological, academic and professional profile of the participants. It is possible to find similar procedures (Redondo 2012; Hernández Jorge et al. 2003).

However, depending on the aim of the study, we adopted different approaches, as described in Table 3:
Table 3

Tests carried out

Test

Type

Platform

GG

Aim

Statistical test

QN

Before of development of classes

 Test

Likert

Moodle

GG

Academic profile: Drawing/Mathematics

χ2/T student

Q0

Technological profile (Using ICT)

 Test

Level A

Moodle

GG

Pre-test level of knowledge of the contours

Wilcoxon

Q2

After of development of classes

 Question

Yes/no

Moodle

GG

Perception of changing of spatial visualization ability

Description

Q1

 Test

Level B

Moodle

GG

Post-test level of knowledge of the contours

Wilcoxon

Q2

 Test

Open

Moodle

GG

Qualitative assessment of the practices

BLA. Bipolar laddering

Qualitative method

Q3

 Test

Likert

Moodle

GG

Quantitative assessment. ISO 9241-210

Description

Q4

 Test

Likert

Moodle

GG

Evaluation of the use of 3D models Evaluation of the visualization tools

Description Kruskal–Wallis

Q5

To analyze the perceived changes in spatial visualization skills as a consequence of the use of 3D models in the learning–teaching process, Q1, we constructed a question to determine the personal perception of the students about the change in their spatial visualization ability at the end of the teaching process after using 3D models in the module.

Regarding the improved learning results due to the use of the three-dimensional model tasks, Q2, we ran two ad hoc tests, similar in their difficulty. Each of the tests included 60 multiple-choice questions and they were available on the Moodle platform. One test was run before the study and the other was conducted at the end of the course. We have compared both results.

We carried out a qualitative analysis of the usability of the 3D models, following Bipolar Laddering, BLA, Q3, (Navarro, Galindo, and Fonseca 2013). Using this, we are able to analyse the positive and negative aspects of introducing the 3D models in the teaching process.

First, the participants provided information about the advantages and disadvantages, (at least three of each), that they observe when these elements are incorporated in the teaching process. They provide a score, (on a scale from 1 to 10), and explain their choices.

Second, the teacher analyzes the information. The teacher classifies the positive and negative elements, adds the given scores and counts the times that they are repeated. For those undefined items, the teacher called the students for an individual interview in order to clarify them.

Those answers that only appear once are discarded or given less weight, and those items that are repeated several times, (common ones), are those that require a more rapid action if they are negative, or need to receive more attention if they are positive.

Other items have been formulated to reinforce the data obtained in the previous section in order to have a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of three-dimensional models in comparison with the traditional classes. Thus, we describe a block of 13 Likert-type questions of five points each regarding the usability of the 3D models used, according to regulations, ISO 9241-210, (DIS 2009), including the three aspects of usability: efficiency, efficacy and satisfaction, Q4. Adding these three aspects allowed us to determine the general usability. This block finishes with a question asking whether they would recommend the use of 3D models for future courses.

Another important element is the assessment of visualization technologies (SKP, PDF3D and AR) by students. We have been able to see valuations of individual technologies (Sumadio and Rambli 2010) and have also tried to determine the preference between the elements involved in the teaching process, Q5, as in (Pifarré and Tomico 2007). Regarding the acceptance of virtual 3D models in general, and in particular the relationship with each of the tools used, the students answered a set of questions (5-point Likert scale) in an ad hoc questionnaire grouped into sections. Those sections included seven and nine questions, respectively. In the second block, they are asked again about the 3 visualization tools to evaluate them using the same scale. The scores of both set of Likert type questions were added to obtain two new variables, one of acceptance of 3D models in general (see Table 7), and another variable for comparison of visualization tools (see Table 8).

4.4 Preliminary data, Q0

First, we asked the students about their academic and employment background. We also asked them about their expertise using ICT and their perception of their own level of expertise on mathematics and graphics expression, and in particular about their understanding and use of contour lines in topographic map, which is the main topic in this study.

We failed to find significant differences between the statistical data of the three groups, G1, G2 and G3. Thus, in order to carry out a global study we will use one single group, GG, which includes the components from the other three groups.

According to the responses of the 54 participants, the typical student profile is male (75.9%) between 21 and 25 years of age (53.7%), without previous experience of using level curves (46.3%), neither at an academic level (64.8%) or at a professional level (85.2%), without experience of using topographic tools (66.7%), and is willing to improve their level of knowledge about topographic map contour lines, (96.3%).

In addition, we found a minority of students, around 1 or 2 per course, which had specific educational support needs, some of whom had an auditory deficit and receive assistance from a sign language interpreter and, in some cases, from a support teacher. Other students had issues to understand Spanish language that, depending on their degree of integration, would cause them to show more difficulties regarding normal or technical communication.

Moreover, all students have personal computer and Smartphone. More than 60.0% have MP3 or similar, console and digital camera and only 20.4% of them have a tablet. 90.7% make a daily use of between 2 and 4 h or more of the personal computer, the mobile phone and the internet, (94.4% of them with personal internet access), becoming used in more than 85.0% from more than 2 years ago. The rest of electronic devices are used less, since many functions are supplied by the indicated elements above. The place with highest use of ICT is the study centre, 92.6% and at home, 77.6%. In terms of their level of software management, they consider that they have, at least, an average level in: internet, 94.4%, word processor, 87.0%, operating system, 81.5%, presentations, 79.6%, tables, 70.4% and educational software 37.1%.

We can conclude that the students showed a medium level of technological knowledge regarding the use of ICT. The students can access and use a wide range of devices with different applications on a daily basis and have some experience with using such devices. Thus, the vehicle we used to observe the 3D models will not limit the understanding of the associated contents that they need to learn, that is, the digital media used in this study does not hinder future learning involving its use.

This fluency regarding ICT is not as evident with respect to the 3D visualization tools. Some of the students (around 33.3%) held the belief that augmented reality is complex to use. Thus, we considered it convenient to explain its use prior to the class, resolving any questions to make the students familiar with these tools and their use.

Regarding their academic profile in relation to graphics expression and mathematics, we observed an average enthusiasm towards the subjects despite the background of the students, but a high diversity regarding the level of knowledge of these subjects. To standardize mathematical and geometrical knowledge, we ran an 8-h preparatory course on basic trigonometry, angles, scales and basic geometric layouts.

5 Results

In this section, we show the results from our study that try to answer the research questions and achieve the aims of this study.

5.1 Spatial visualization ability, Q1

About 90% of the 30 participants answered positively when we asked them if they considered whether they had improved their spatial visualization skills due to the use of 3D models. However, this is only a personal perception, and we, therefore, needed to conduct a comparative analysis in a control study to offer more definite conclusions.

5.2 Learning results, Q2

The tests were administered to 30 students, and the results are shown in Table 4 and Fig. 10. We can conclude, with a probability higher than 99%, which the subsequent level test after the process differs from the score obtained prior to the experiment. These results suggest that the use of three-dimensional models in the teaching–learning process could improve the student’s academic results. However, we should test this hypothesis in a control study with two separate groups of students.
Table 4

Score of the level tests (Pre–post)

Test score

GG-30 answers

Pre

Post

Intra-group changes. Wilcoxon

Pre–post (Z/p)

Mean (SD)

GG

5.89 (2.35)

7.30 (1.97)

(Z = −5.375/p = 0.000*)

Upper limit

6.25

7.59

Lower limit

5.54

7.01

Fig. 10

Test score

5.3 Advantages and disadvantages of 3D models, Q3

All the students (N = 54) answered the questionnaire through the Moodle platform of the study centre. We have classified and ordered the answers depending on the number of times the same item was mentioned in relation to the number of number of students interviewed. By doing this, we can describe the best and worse features of the system. Table 5 shows the answers, including the percentage of citation and the mean scored obtained.
Table 5

Scores of Bipolar Laddering

GG positive aspects

%

M

M

%

GG negative aspects

Facilitates the understanding of the content

46.66

3.96

2.70

46.66

Creation of 3D models

Used technologies

16.66

1.40

1.16

20.00

Picture freezes, trembles

Easy to use

16.66

1.40

0.66

10.00

No negative aspects

Innovative element

13.33

1.00

0.53

10.00

Slowness in computer devices

Presentation of future projects

6.66

0.60

0.16

3.33

Eyestrain

Versatility, personalized attention

6.66

0.50

   

5.3.1 Examples of positive comments

  • Positive opinions from the GG:
    • “Attractive, we can better view the tasks when doing them”.

    • “…it offers several perspectives of the object, thus it is easier to analyse and understand”.

    • “It is something I have never used before, a new and interesting tool that can be used for different things and that grabs your attention if you have never seen it before”.

    • “Entertaining. Because we leave the usual teaching routine”.

    • “Because it helped me to present a future project”.

    • “Because each person can have their own individual model and manipulate it”.

  • Negative opinions from the GG:
    • “We need powerful equipment to reduce the processing time”.

    • “Although it takes time to get things right… when you do get them right, everything is perfect and there is a great element of satisfaction”.

    • “Because sometimes the computer or the camera get blocked”.

    • “Visibility. The image sometimes freezes”.

    • “Some computers are very slow”.

    • “Sight gets tired when used for a long time”.

5.4 Usability, Q4

The 13 questions included in the block quantify the usability of 3D models have been answered by 35 students. The usability, is a variable that sums up all the variables answered, (Cronbach’s alpha 0.933), and it can vary between a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 65. Table 6 shows the overall statistics.
Table 6

Usability, Statistics

 

M

SD

Standard error

Interval 95%

Minimum

Maximum

Lower limit

Upper limit

Usability

55.17

7.17

1.21163

52.71

57.63

37

65

GG (35 answers)

Not suitable at all 13–23

Not suitable 24–33

Suitable 34–44

Quite suitable 45–54

Very suitable 55–65

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Usability

GG

0

0.0

0

0.0

4

11.4

11

31.4

20

57.2

The scores related to the usability of 3D models have been positive (M = 55.17, SD = 7.17). We grouped the results into five similar clusters: 13–23 not suitable at all, 24–33 not suitable, 34–44 Suitable, 45–54 quite suitable and 55–65 very suitable. Figure 11 represents these results.
Fig. 11

Usability of tri-dimensional method

As can be observed above, more than half of the participants described the 3D models used as very usable for teaching practice. Also, none of them considered them as a method “Not suitable at all” or “Not suitable”. Moreover, none of the participants answered “Highly disagree” for any of the 13 questions.

We can establish that we have achieved our aim by determining whether the 3D models are suitable for teaching practice for our students. The final mean score was 55.15, (see Table 6), which classifies as “Very suitable”.

The last question—asking whether they would recommend the use of 3D models for future courses to explain the subject tasks—was answered positively by the 35 students. The reasons given by the students were:
  • “It gives you a better perception of the matter of study, being more real and easier to understand”.

  • “They are more intuitive and the figure can be seen from every perspective”.

  • “The only disadvantage is that sometimes the program fails and we need to restart it”.

  • “I think they are all advantages”.

  • “A very good experience, almost everything is an advantage; the only problem is that I get dizzy if I use it for a long period”.

5.5 Acceptance of 3D models and tools, Q5

Regarding the preliminary acceptance of the 3D models, the 7 Likert scale 1–5 questions included in this block were answered by 29 students of the GG group, (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.809).

We have clustered all the previous variables into one. The final scores range from a minimum of 7 to a maximum of 35. This created five groups in accord with the possible responses: 7–12 not satisfied at all, 13–18 not satisfied, 19–24 satisfied, 25–30 quite satisfied and 31–35 Very satisfied (see Table 7; Fig. 12). The scores were between 14 and 35 (M = 27.78, SD = 4.24).
Table 7

Overall acceptance of visualization tools

 

M

SD

Standard error

Interval 95%

Minimum

Maximum

    

Lower limit

Upper limit

  

Overall acceptance

27.78

4.24

0.78730

26.15

29.37

14.0

35.0

GG (29 answers)

Not satisfied at all 7–12

Not satisfied 13–18

Satisfied 19–24

Quite satisfied 25–30

Very satisfied 31–35

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Acceptance of the use of 3D models

GG

0

0.0

1

3.4

5

17.2

16

55.3

7

24.1

Fig. 12

Overall acceptance

The acceptance shown by the students was positive. They are generally satisfied with a rate of 96.5% of the students showing a positive response. The group mean out of 35 is 27.78 (4.24), that is, 4.00 (0.75) out of 5—“Quite satisfied”.

The second block aims to compare the three tools, including 9 Likert-type questions, 1–5. We repeated it three times; one time for each of the visualization tools used. For this block, 26 students answered the questions related to AR, 16 students answered questions related to PDF3D and 19 students answered questions related to SKP. We aimed to know which of the 3 visualization technologies for three-dimensional models is most accepted by the students. Our null hypothesis is that the acceptance of the three technologies is similar.

We calculated a new variable by adding the data obtained from the previous nine questions. This variable shows us the final score of the evaluation of each of the visualization tools used in our course, and offers a comparison between them (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.875, high reliability).

We obtained positive scores for the three tools. The scores for the technologies used were: SKP (M = 33.68, SD = 6.19), AR (M = 33.00, SD = 7.00) and PDF3D (M = 37.00, SD = 4.41). The scores could go from 9 to 45, respectively. Table 8 represents the overall statistics. The summarized data of the calculated question are shown in Figs. 13, 14. We clustered the results into five groups, matching the possible answers: 9–15 not satisfied at all, 16–23 not satisfied, 24–30 Satisfied, 31–38 quite satisfied and 39–45 very satisfied. Only one participant appeared to be “Not satisfied at all” with 3D technologies. The mean scores were similar for all the visualization tools and are close to “Quite satisfied”. The percentage of students “Quite satisfied” and “Very satisfied” were as follows: SKP (73.7%); AR (77.0%) and SKP (93.7%).
Table 8

Data of assessment of each visualization tools

 

M

SD

Standard error

Interval 95%

Minimum

Maximum

Lower limit

Upper limit

SKP

33.68

6.19

1.42051

30.6998

36.6686

20.00

45.00

AR

33.00

7.00

1.37225

30.1738

35.8262

11.00

45.00

PDF3D

37.00

4.41

1.10303

34.6490

39.3510

28.00

43.00

(SKP, 19)

(AR, 26)

(PDF3D, 16)

Not satisfied at all 9–15

Not satisfied 16–23

Satisfied 24–30

Quite satisfied 31–38

Very satisfied 39–45

χ2

p

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

  

SKP

GG

0

0.0

1

5.2

4

10

10

52.6

4

21.1

4.969

0.083

AR

GG

1

3.8

1

3.8

4

15

15

57.7

5

19.3

PDF3D

GG

0

0.0

0

0.0

1

9

9

56.3

6

37.4

Fig. 13

Assessment of each visualization tools

Fig. 14

Score of each visualization tools

The Shapiro–Wilks test revealed that the data do not meet the normality assumption. The Kruskal–Wallis test revealed that there were no significant differences between the scores for the technologies evaluated (χ 2 = 4.969 p = 0.083 > 0.05).

The high score obtained for both the 3D models in general, and for the three visualization tools in particular, suggest that the students are satisfied in general with the support received from 3D models, and there are no marked differences between the scores of the three visualization tools.

6 Discussion and conclusions

After analyzing the inclusion of virtual models related to topography with students of Vocational Training, our conclusions suggest that the students consider that their spatial visualization ability has improved due to the use of 3D models. Further, once the teaching–learning process had finished, an evaluation activity in the form of a test was conducted to assess student differences in skills related to contours. For this, the students completed some surveys of a similar level of difficulty to those made at the beginning of the experience. The results reveal an improvement in skills. We can, therefore, conclude that the use of 3D models could improve the results of the students at the end of the academic year; however, it should be seen whether this improvement persists over time with longer studies (Prieto et al. 2014).

Further, there are signs that suggest that the inclusion of 3D models has been accepted by the students. In addition, the experiment showed changes on the teaching–learning process of the students (Chang et al. 2015). In particular, the students have highlighted the use of 3D models to interpret the lessons and solve the task and test, given that it is easier to analyse and understand the elements represented since they can be observed from different perspectives.

We should also note the fact that these models are not only simple and fast to use, but also innovative and they facilitate their dynamic inclusion in the classroom given their current imprint that makes them manageable and interesting whilst readily emerging from day-to-day practice. On the negative side, the students have highlighted some faults related to the slowness when visualizing the models, or the fact that sometimes the images could freeze or were shaky, which can provoke visual tiredness when using them for a long period.

The students consider that the most difficult part is creating 3D models, given that it involves a long period of time to develop a successful model. Continued improvement of the current program could reduce time dedicated to make models (Heo and Chow 2005). One possibility to minimize this effect would be to include more extended explanations and to use more powerful equipment. Moreover, given that 100% of the students recommend the use of these models for future courses and that they classify them as “Very suitable” when describing its usability, we can assume that they help the students to perform better as a learning community.

Finally, the students are satisfied in general by the inclusion of 3D models in the teaching–learning process, as what is noted in another study (Chiang, Yang, and Hwang 2014). However, there is no clear preference for neither of the visualization tools used. We can also suggest that this technology is easy to use and learn which facilitates learning that is not conditional upon the vehicle given its visual and intuitive appearance. Moreover, in this case, the written language or the language does not restrict its use in any way, and it can be readily used by students with only partial mastery of the language, or those with hearing issues (see Fig. 15). It is also possible to use them in final urbanization projects, to show the results obtained to people who do not understand the technical projects (see Fig. 16).
Fig. 15

Using 3D models with deaf students in the learning process

Fig. 16

Urbanization project in 3D

We have reached these conclusions after analyzing the inclusion of 3D models in Vocational Training from different perspectives. However, we did not have the possibility, (or would have in the near future), to compare two similar groups of students at this academic level. For this reason, we will carry out a second case study in a different educational centre, with a bigger population, with control and an experimental group that are comparable, in order to achieve more solid conclusions related to: the change in spatial visualization ability, the change in academic data, the change in motivation, the usability of the models studied, as well as the preference for one visualization tool over another.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Authors would like to thank all those who have contributed to this work: students, colleagues and to J. A. Juango, I. López, E. Ramirez, S. Castillo, G. Jimenez, D. W. Sumpter and I. Marcos.

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Copyright information

© The Visualization Society of Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de MálagaMálagaSpain
  2. 2.Universidad de CórdobaCórdobaSpain

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