Design Considerations for Haptic-Enabled Virtual Reality Simulation for Interactive Learning of Nanoscale Science in Schools

  • Mary WebbEmail author
  • Megan Tracey
  • William Harwin
  • Ozan Tokatli
  • Faustina Hwang
  • Ros Johnson
  • Natasha Barrett
  • Chris Jones
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 1044)


This paper reports on a study which investigated whether the addition of haptics (virtual touch) to a 3D virtual reality (VR) simulation promotes understanding of key nanoscale concepts in membrane systems for students aged 12 to 13. We developed a virtual model of a section of the cell membrane and a haptic enabled interface that enables students to interact with the model and to manipulate objects in the model. Students, in two schools in England, worked collaboratively in pairs on activities designed to develop their understanding of key concepts of cell membrane function. Results of pre-and post-tests of conceptual knowledge and understanding showed significant knowledge gains but there were no significant differences between the haptic and non-haptic condition. However, findings from observation of the activities and student interviews revealed that students were very positive about using the system and believed that being able to feel structures and manipulate objects within the model assisted their learning. We examine some of the design challenges and issues affecting the perception of haptic feedback.


Haptics Virtual reality Cell biology Science learning 



The authors are pleased to acknowledge support for this work from the Leverhulme Foundation project ‘3D Learning in a Rich, Cooperative Haptic Environment’. We are also pleased to thank our colleagues on this project Jon Rashid, Carleen Houbart, Phil James, Richard Fisher, and Simon Bliss as well as all the students who participated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Webb
    • 1
    Email author
  • Megan Tracey
    • 1
  • William Harwin
    • 2
  • Ozan Tokatli
    • 2
  • Faustina Hwang
    • 2
  • Ros Johnson
    • 3
  • Natasha Barrett
    • 2
  • Chris Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Education, Communication and SocietyKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  3. 3.The AbbeyReadingUK

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