Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Education & Arts

First Advisor

Dr Mark McMahon

Abstract

Rapid advancements in computer technology have facilitated the development of practical and economically feasible three dimensional (3D) computer-generated simulation environments that have been utilized for training in a number of different fields. In particular, this development has been heavily influenced by innovations within the gaming industry, where First Person Shooter (FPS) games are often considered to be on the cutting edge of gaming technology in terms of visual fidelity and performance. 3D simulation environments built upon FPS gaming technologies can be used to realistically represent real world places, while also providing a dynamic and responsive experiential based learning environment for trainees. This type of training environment can be utilized effectively when training within the corresponding real world space may not be safe, practical, or economically feasible. This thesis explores the effectiveness of 3D simulation environments based on FPS gaming technologies to enhance the spatial awareness of trainees in unfamiliar real world spaces. The purpose was to identify the characteristics that contribute to effective learning within such environments. In order to identify these characteristics, a model was proposed representing the interrelationships between, and determinant factors of, the concepts of spatial cognition, learning within a simulation environment, and computer-generated 3D environments. The Location and Scenario Training System (LASTS), developed by the Royal Australian Navy, was evaluated to determine whether experience within the LASTS environment could benefit trainee submariners on Collins class submarines. The LASTS environment utilises the Unreal Runtime FPS game engine to provide a realistic representation of the Main Generator Room (MGR) on-board a Collins class submarine. This simulation was used to engage trainees in a simplified exercise based on the location of items relevant to a 12 Point Safety Round performed inside the MGR. Five trainee submariners were exposed to LASTS and then required to conduct the same exercise on-board a Collins class submarine. This mode of learning was compared to traditional non-immersive classroom teaching involving five additional trainee submariners who were also required to complete the same exercise inside the MGR. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis was used to ascertain the effectiveness of LASTS as well as the contributing factors to this and learners' perception of the value of the environment. Results indicated that LASTS could be successfully used as a training tool to enhance the spatial awareness of trainee submariners with regard to the MGR on-board a Collins class submarine. LASTS trainees also demonstrated a better spatial understanding of the MGR environment as a result of their experience compared to trainees who were the recipients of traditional classroom based training. The contributing characteristics of the proposed model were also validated with reference to the data gathered from the LASTS case study. This indicated that the model could be utilized in the design of future 3D simulation environments based on gaming technology in order to facilitate effective spatial awareness training.

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