The use of virtual reality technology in teaching environmental engineering

Burnley, Stephen J (2007). The use of virtual reality technology in teaching environmental engineering. Engineering Education, 2(2) pp. 2–15.



The Open University (OU) provides a Diploma in Pollution control as part of its undergraduate degree programme. The courses that make up the Diploma are presented in distance learning format using the OU's supported open learning system that has been developed over several decades. Teaching environmental engineering by distance learning presents several challenges in terms of ensuring that students gain an appreciation of the technology in action and receive the motivation and support more-readily available to students taught in a campus setting. The OU has developed a multi-media resources DVD to help meet these challenges for students undertaking an environmental impact assessment project. The DVD contains virtual reality views of the proposed site, maps of the region, supporting technical data, interviews with experts and advice from a virtual tutor. A survey of students using the DVD found that the overwhelming majority found the DVD to be 'very useful' or 'useful'. Understandably, the material that is essential for completing the project received the highest rating, but the background material was still considered to be useful by most students. Similar resources could benefit all students in many areas of engineering and technology.

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