Introduction

With a move towards online learning in higher education and advances in educational technologies, there is a push towards creating more online resources for our students.

Using the principles of constructivism, interactive scenarios/simulations allow students to interact with virtual environments, from the safety and convenience of their computer or device.

Interactive scenarios/simulations facilitate learning by providing students with a means of applying content and critical thinking skills to real-life situations. These scenarios can be used for formative assessment, with students using these activities for revision. These activities can also be contextualised into the learning modules, whereby tutorials or discussions can centre around the content covered in the interactive scenarios.

A series of interactive scenarios and simulations were developed for two psychology subjects: PSY208 Biopsychology and PSY203 Social Psychology. Following the implementation of these scenarios, evaluative research was conducted to gauge students’ engagement with these activities.

What did it look like?

Working with a learning experience designer, we designed multiple interactive scenarios/simulations that were embedded within topic modules in the Interact2 site.

We created storyboards using Microsoft PowerPoint, inserting images, video, and text to create the layout we wanted for each screen within our scenarios. Some scenarios required creating video with the help of DLT.

The following technologies were used to create the scenarios:

  • Smart Sparrow – These interactive activities included content in the form of vignettes, images and/or short videos. Students completed a series of revision activities relating to the content e.g. multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, labelling, and hotspot activities.

Examples:

Biopsychology virtual brain dissection – Students watch a video of a sheep brain dissection and then identify the structures of the brain.
Social Psychology defence mechanisms activity – Students watch an animation of ‘Dave’ in various situations and then identify which defence mechanism he displays.
  • Adobe captivate – Students complete multiple-choice questions throughout the interactive scenarios, in a style similar to ‘choose your own adventure’.

Examples:

Biopsychology virtual golf lesson – This lesson looks at the learning neural pathways involved in movement through the lens of a virtual golf lesson. If students answer the question incorrectly, they are shown comical YouTube videos of golfers missing the ball or having the ball eaten by an alligator, and have to go back to the beginning of lesson after revising.
Biopsychology virtual holiday – Students choose from three virtual holiday destinations (tropical island resort, snow adventure or cultural immersion experience). On their virtual holiday, they complete a series of questions about things they see, feel, hear (with real audio), taste and smell, answering questions about sensory pathways involved in these experiences. To make the virtual holiday more realistic, students can click on the Instagram icon to take a photo of things within their virtual holiday.

Other biopsychology activities included navigating through a haunted house to learn brain pathways involved in fear responses, a time travel activity to learn about memory, and the hunger games to learn about digestive processes.

Social psychology compliance activity – Students apply their knowledge of compliance theory to the scenario of Jane convincing Norm to stop smoking.
  • Mentimeter – Uses real-time polling that allows students to evaluate their responses in relation to other students’ responses.

Example:

Social psychology prejudice and discrimination tutorial – In this activity, two different stories/descriptions of a woman were presented, but students only read one. Students were asked to make judgements about the credibility of the woman’s claims using Mentimeter. The poll results (i.e. differences between students receiving the two stories) were discussed on the forum in the context of prejudice/discrimination.
  • H5P – Revision questions (e.g. multiple-choice, true/false) were embedded into Youtube videos, allowing students to interact with the audiovisual material

Examples:

Biopsychology osmosis experiment – students watched a video of an experiment and were required to record liquid levels and answer questions about what they observed.
Biopsychology lie detector – Students view a person taking a lie detector test and indicated when they thought the person was telling a lie based on the polygraph readings on screen.
  • Panopto – Recorded online tutorials were created. These included the subject convenor discussing key concepts, showing videos from YouTube and embedding interactive quizzes.

Examples:

Social Psychology Survivor group processes activity – Students learned about group processes by watching clips from the TV show Survivor whilst answering interactive questions.

What did students think of the activities?

In a survey evaluating these activities, students rated each of the activities highly (strongly agree/agree) when asked whether the activities were enjoyable, easy-to-use, interesting, helped with memorisation, assisted with deep learning, created an immersive experience, and whether they would like to do these activities again.

Interview/focus group responses from students indicated that they enjoyed learning using these interactive resources. Students commented on the novelty and usefulness of these activities.

The learning analytics data corroborated these sentiments. Students (especially those that achieve higher grades) made use of these interactive activities, particularly for subject revision towards the final exam.

How can I make this happen?

Most of these activities were really easy to create: the bigger the imagination, the more realistic and better the resources were.

Learning experience designers can assist with using all of the technologies, which are freely available to use.

We are more than happy to discuss our research methodology and findings with anyone interested.


Acknowledgements: design of interactive activities by Nicole Sugden, Robyn Brunton, and Michelle Yeo. Evaluation of activities by Nicole Sugden, Robyn Brunton, Jasmine MacDonald, Cassandra Colvin, and Ben Hicks.