This thesis aimed to create a virtual learning environment and perform its user assessment using eye-tracking technology. The objectives were to develop a VLE that incorporates geographic content and analyze users' visual attention, engagement, and overall experience within the VLE.
The primary objective was to develop a VLE that incorporates geographic content, leveraging Copernicus data and addressing contemporary educational needs. Through a comprehensive literature review and careful selection process, the COPERNICUS MUSEUM environment was established, focusing on Sea Level Rise and the Sentinel-6 mission. This contribution outlines the successful development and implementation of a virtual learning environment for the COPERNICUS MUSEUM virtual reality application, specifically designed for the Varjo XR-3 VR system. The project, which occupies a space of 31.6 GB, was designed as a standalone program compatible with Windows operating systems. The 3D representation of the Globe Exhibit within the VLE showcases the visualization of the Global Ocean Sea Surface Temperature trend map, derived from the ESA SST CCI and C3S global SST analyses. The VLE was designed to provide an immersive and interactive platform for geographic education, incorporating realistic 3D visualizations, accurate geographic data, and interactive features. The VLE has provided participants with an engaging and interactive platform to explore geographical concepts, fostering a deeper understanding of Sea Level Rise and the Sentinel-6 mission.
The second objective was to perform user assessment using eye-tracking technology to gain insights from overall experience within the VLE. The eye-tracking analysis provided valuable insights into participants' visual attention patterns within the virtual reality environment. The data revealed variations in attention across different exhibits, suggesting the importance of content and presentation in directing users' visual attention. Gender and age differences were observed, indicating that personal preferences and interests influence visual attention and engagement. The analysis of initial gaze dispersion also highlighted the influence of subtle hints or cues on participants' exploration patterns. The interviews with participants further enriched the understanding of their perceptions and experiences, providing suggestions for improvement.
In conclusion, the development of the COPERNICUS MUSEUM environment, combined with the eye-tracking analysis offers valuable insights for optimizing the Virtual Learning Environment. This study presents a pioneering approach to integrating geographic content into a VLE and leveraging eye-tracking technology for user assessment. By showcasing the potential of immersive virtual environments and eye-tracking technology, this research not only enhances the learning experience but also provides valuable information on user engagement and attention.
The knowledge gained from this study holds significant implications for the field of geographic education. It can guide future improvements and refinements in VLE design, ensuring that educational platforms effectively incorporate geographic content. Moreover, the findings underscore the importance of utilizing eye-tracking technology to gain deeper insights into user behavior and preferences, enabling educators to create more engaging and interactive learning environments. This study contributes to the ongoing advancement of geographic education and serves as a foundation for the creation of innovative educational platforms.