Teaching Computer Science Algorithms Through Virtual Reality
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Virtual reality has in recent years become exceedingly popular since devices of high enough quality have become available at an affordable price, starting with the Oculus Rift in 2016. This thesis explores how virtual reality can be used to teach complex concepts for educational purposes. Specifically, it explores how virtual reality can be used in the course TDT4120 - Algorithms and Data Structures at NTNU to teach students the algorithms presented in there. This was done by implementing a virtual reality application in the Unity game engine. The application tries to teach the students three different sorting algorithms - bubble sort, insertion sort and quicksort - by interacting with an array of boxes. Several helper functionalities were implemented as well, such as highlighting and color coding to assist the user, as well as instructional videos for each algorithm. Videos demonstrating the application can be found at https://tinyurl.com/VirtSort. The application was evaluated based on user testing, where it was tested by NTNU students, both with and without experience from the TDT4120 course. The testing revealed that the application still has some way to go before being a viable learning tool. This can to some degree be attributed to users being somewhat inexperienced with using VR and still requiring too much prior knowledge of the algorithms to use the application efficiently. Despite this, the results indicate that the problem is not with the concept itself, but rather the application missing some features. Overall, the conclusion leaves a positive impression of the usage of VR to teach algorithms, as well as other complex concepts.