Simulations are being used in education and training to enhance understanding, improve performance, and assess competence. However, it is important to measure the performance of these simulations as learning and training tools. This study examined and compared knowledge acquisition using a knowledge structure design. The subjects were first-year medical students at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine. One group used a fully immersed virtual reality (VR) environment using a head mounted display (HMD) and another group used a partially immersed (computer screen) VR environment. The study aims were to determine whether there were significant differences between the two groups as measured by changes in knowledge structure before and after the VR simulation experience. The results showed that both groups benefited from the VR simulation training as measured by the significant increased similarity to the expert knowledge network after the training experience. However, the immersed group showed a significantly higher gain than the partially immersed group. This study demonstrated a positive effect of VR simulation on learning as reflected by improvements in knowledge structure but an enhanced effect of full-immersion using a HMD vs. a screen-based VR system.
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