Title page for ETD etd-04142011-153625

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Coco, Mary Leah Caillier
Author's Email Address maryleahcoco@gmail.com
URN etd-04142011-153625
Title Evaluation of Knowledge Transfer in an Immersive Virtual Learning Environment for the Transportation Community
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Human Resource Education Workforce Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Machtmes, Krisanna Committee Chair
Johnson, Earl Committee Member
Johnson, Geraldine Committee Member
Kennedy, Eugene Committee Member
Hassan, Marwa Dean's Representative
  • database tracking
  • experiential learning
  • constructivism
  • marginalized population
  • adult education
  • distance education
  • virtual learning
  • immersive virtual learning environment
  • telemetry data measurement
Date of Defense 2011-04-13
Availability restricted
In the year 2009, 667 individuals lost their lives in a highway construction or maintenance work zone (National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, 2010). Since the year 2003, 6,438 individuals have been killed in a highway construction or maintenance work zone, which is approximately 805 deaths per calendar year (National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, 2010). This eye-opening and unfortunate statistic points to the need for a re-evaluation of training methodology as it relates to work zone safety. This study reports on the use of virtual learning technology for work-zone training.

This research tested the use of an Immersive Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE) simulating real-world highway work zones. IVLEs go beyond traditional visual learning by presenting images that combine a new form of visual learning and virtual-experiential learning in a way that is more congruent with an individual’s visual images stored in memory, thus improving knowledge transfer and retention (Dede, 2000; Kapp & O’Driscoll, 2010). The visual cues that the learner experiences in the virtual world are so similar to the visual cues in the real world that recall of virtual world lessons stored in memory are triggered by the same cues in the real world. Additionally, the student can experiment, make mistakes, and repeat the activity as often as necessary, achieving a virtual-experiential understanding of the concept that can only be duplicated in real-world experiential learning, which is often not practical (Dede, 2000; Kapp & O’Driscoll, 2010). Such immersive engagement in the learning activity will allow the learners to move beyond the memorization of the presented concepts and into the application and synthesis of the material.

A significant benefit of this research will be a better understanding of how educators can implement this advanced, user-friendly, semi-transparent technology to positively affect the inclusion of marginalized populations into virtual learning environments. This research will establish a solid theoretical and evidence-based link between use of the virtual world learning environment and improved knowledge transfer and retention for that marginalized population that forms the bulk of the employment pool for military, construction, maintenance, and many other industrial entry-level positions.

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