This study describes and analyzes the learning interactions of nine high-school students' free exploration of a virtual solar system (VSS). The VSS is a non-immersive three dimensional virtual environment based on real NASA planetary images. The computer screen serves as a "spacecraft's window" for the learner to "fly" between objects, to change the system's frame of reference and its pace. A systematic analysis of participants' real-time observable interactions together with what they said revealed that each of them created an unique learning pattern within at least five different dimensions: (1) the cognitive dimension, (2) the affective dimension, (3) the navigation dimension, (4) the interface dimension, and (5) the assistance seeking dimension. The construction of meaning emerged as a non-linear process, which includes transitions between and within these dimensions. Three different styles of learning interactions were identified, suggesting that individual differences might be enhanced due to the unique VSS features. Overall, the VSS' served as an enriching and motivational learning experience. The design of additional navigation tools and content scaffolding might help participants' in building a sustained deep scientific understanding.
- Learning interactions
- Virtual reality environments