PhD Defense by Brianna Tomlinson

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Title: Measuring the Effect of User Experience and Engagement on Learning Using Interactive Simulations


Brianna Tomlinson

Human-Centered Computing PhD Student

School of Interactive Computing

College of Computing

Georgia Institute of Technology


Date: Monday, July 6th

Time: 1pm ET (10am PT)

Location (Bluejeans): https://bluejeans.com/370325065 meeting ID code: 370 325 065



Dr. Bruce Walker (Advisor, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Dr. Betsy DiSalvo (School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Dr. Maribeth Coleman (School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Dr. Marion Usselman (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Dr. Emily Moore (Department of Physics, University of Colorado Boulder)



Schools use a variety of interactive software to support education, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes. Educational technologies provide a way to support 3D interaction and exploration for complex STEM topics, but many of them have not explored high-fidelity multimodal interactions. Previous studies have explored the best methods to measure emotional, cognitive, and physical engagement, but these methods have not been applied to fully understand the impact of multimodal interactive simulations on student learning. Technologies like Virtual Reality can provide a novel means for supporting interactive simulations for student learning. However, the full impact of these new systems and modalities on learning and engagement is unclear.


This study investigated different versions of interactive simulations for astronomy education. The dissertation included the design and evaluation of the sonification model for the solar system, which was then embedded within two different simulation versions. It evaluated a variety of tools for measuring and comparing user experience, engagement, affect, and learning, and compared qualitative differences between learner interaction in the four conditions. Other factors investigated included science anxiety, motivation, and technology experience, and their effect on a student’s ease of use and comfort in using newer technologies for education. The study found significant differences between the virtual reality (VR) and PC conditions and between the audio and no-audio conditions, with the VR and audio supporting better learning opportunities than the PC or no-audio conditions.


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