Engineering education in the 21st century faces multiple obstacles including limited accessibility of course resources due, in part, to the costs associated with acquiring and maintaining equipment and staffing laboratories. Another continuing challenge is the low level of participation of women and other groups historically underrepresented in STEM disciplines. As a partial remedy for these issues, we established a Virtual Engineering Sciences Learning Lab (VESLL) that provides interactive objects and learning activities, multimedia displays, and instant feedback procedures in a virtual environment to guide students through a series of key quantitative skills and concepts. Developed in the online virtual world Second LifeTM, VESLL is an interactive environment that supports STEM education, with potential to help reach women and other underrepresented groups. VESLL exposes students to various quantitative skills and concepts through visualization, collaborative games, and problem solving with realistic learning activities. Initial assessments have demonstrated high student interest in VESLL's potential as a supplementary instructional tool and show that student learning experiences were improved by use of VESLL. Ultimately, the VESLL project contributes to the ongoing body of evidence suggesting that online delivery of course content has remarkable potential when properly deployed by STEM educators.
S. E. August, M. L. Hammers, D. B. Murphy, A. Neyer, P. Gueye and R. Q. Thames, "Virtual Engineering Sciences Learning Lab: Giving STEM Education a Second Life," in IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 18-30, 1 Jan.-March 2016.