The Future of Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Enhancing User Cognition in E-Learning Scenarios with 3D Web Applications a Comparison of 2D and 3D Visualizations with HTML5

Gabriel Rausch, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (Germany)


2.1  Introduction
As the web has evolved into a mature platform for building Rich Internet Applications (RIA), technologies to render three-dimensional elements in the browser have become commonplace [1]. While it is tempting to believe that the visual potential of 3D on the web will enhance users' perception of information and facilitate new approaches to how we learn and gather information, numerous previously proposed approaches to 3D e-learning scenarios, such as Google's "Zygote Body", have not yet been widely adopted [2]. Building on the work of Tavanti and Lind, Cockburn's fundamental research established general behaviors regarding user's perceptions of 2D and 3D visualized information [3, 4]. Focusing on the web interfaces proposed by Jankowski suggests an approach that mixes 2D and 3D elements to boost user’s cognition [5]. We developed the foundations of this project to explore the potential of browser-based user manual scenarios as a method to evaluate the effectiveness of user cognition in the presence of three-dimensional elements. 
2.2  Test Setup and Methodology
Comparing different visualization technologies to evaluate the potential of 3D on the web, we created a series of browser-based user manuals for electrical and mechanical products in collaboration with our industry partners.  
For each product, three test applications were prepared:
• An interactive 3D version with live rendered models based on WebGL
• A 2D version with images and illustrations
• A video version to describe the user manual in animated sequences
In order to both gain deeper insight intro the thoughts of users and to gather empirical qualitative data, a combination of methods from usability evaluation and field studies was applied, including the think-aloud-method and monitoring. The evaluation of the data follows the methodology set forth by Mayring [6].
2.3  Results
• Spatial cognition: Participants coped with tasks more effectively while using the 3D interface than while using the video or 2D versions.
• Quality of visualization: Participants using the 3D interface were convinced by the visualization and felt entertained by the task procedure.
• Usability: 3D interactions yielded difficulties for most of the test subjects, especially older participants.
• Accessibility: 3D on the web requires a high-level hardware and software setup. This technical condition limits the potential user base.
• Production: The complex development and preparation of 3D models, as well as subsequent optimization of performance, are challenging tasks that are highly cost intensive and time consuming.

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