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HCD adds another iPhD student

December 14, 2016

Congratulations to Lei Zhang, a graduate student in SOVA, currently completing his Creative Technologies MFA. His proposal, Supporting K12 Biology Learning with Interactive Science Storytelling in Immersive Virtual Reality, for an iPhD program was accepted by the vetting committee in the Graduate School. Lei’s committee, by my count, represents 4 Colleges, 4 Departments, and one Institute (very interdisciplinary!):

  • Dane Webster, School of Visual Arts (Chair)
  • Doug Bowman, Department of Computer Sciences
  • Todd Ogle, Sr Director: Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology
  • David Hicks, History and Social Science Education, School of Education
  • Thomas Tucker, School of Visual Arts
  • Caroline Jones, Department of Biological Sciences


Science learning can be a frustrating experience for young learners. In K12 science education, low interest and disengagement are main factors that affect students’ motivation in science learning and are often related to poor quality of instructions (CADRE, 2012). To address the problem, new technologies and pedagogical tools and methods have been explored and interactive storytelling in immersive virtual reality (IVR) is an emerging new practice of experiential learning and research frontier based on the very recent breakthroughs in VR technology and bears great potentials in supporting science learning through its unique affordances of interactivity and 360 degree immersion. However, little has been studied so far on the educational use of this new learning medium due to its newness and involvement of multiple disciplines in development. Therefore, this research proposes an investigation on how effective and engaging learning of science concepts takes place with the support of interactive storytelling in an immersive virtual environment on a mobile platform. Due to complexity of the research, a doctoral degree in interactive VR storytelling for learning is proposed to address depth and quality of the research. Expected major outcomes of the research include: a theoretical framework for the design of interactive IVR storytelling learning experience; development of an interactive mobile IVR storytelling application focusing on learning of specific K12 biology concepts; a set of metrics to measure learning outcomes specifically in IVR storytelling; a design strategy focusing on development of IVR learning experiences on lower-end VR devices for disadvantaged learners and schools.