Embedding civil engineering understanding through the use of interactive virtual reality

Daniel William McCloskey*, Emily McAllister, Ryan Gilbert, Connor O'Higgins, Darragh Lydon, Myra Lydon, Daniel McPolin

*Corresponding author for this work

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Recent skills surveys of engineering graduates have highlighted a deficit in critical thinking among graduates. A possible solution to this is to increase the number of hands-on exercises in the curriculum. This could be carried out through the integration of 3D learning tools, specifically a virtual reality (VR) program, to effectively teach civil engineering practical studies and allow repeatable and measurable exercises for students. This study aims to assess the suitability of the VR program as an additional resource alongside existing learning exercises or a substitute for hands-on experiments when needed. The methodology involved creating a VR program, compatible with VR headsets to replicate an engineering experiment, namely the loading of a concrete beam to observe its failure. Students’ understanding of the virtual experiment was evaluated through end-of-experiment questions. The findings indicate that the VR learning tool was successful in enhancing students’ understanding of the civil engineering experiment. The immersive and interactive nature of VR contributed to a solid grasp of the concepts presented, proving its potential as a valuable educational resource. By leveraging VR technology, educational institutions can provide an engaging and effective alternative to traditional laboratory sessions, ensuring uninterrupted and high-quality learning experiences for civil engineering students.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages15
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date20 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • virtual reality
  • interactive learning tool
  • digital modelling
  • civil engineering
  • material testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Education


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