Interactive immersive virtual reality to enhance students’ visualisation of complex molecules

Mihye Won, Mauro Mocerino, Kok-Sing Tang, David F. Treagust, Roy Tasker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Computer-aided visualisation has played an essential role in helping students construct a better understanding of molecular interactions over the years. However, students still need to translate 2D images on a screen into 3D molecular structures in their minds, and they often find it challenging to develop a clear mental picture of complex molecules. As an alternative platform for molecular visualisation, immersive virtual reality (VR) holds great promise for addressing students’ difficulties. To examine the educational possibilities and limitations of immersive VR environments, we adopted a design research approach. We developed a series of learning activities to teach students about an enzyme and its interactions with substrates and then conducted a user study in an immersive VR environment. Twenty-two first-year university chemistry students participated in the user study. Their VR sessions along with pre- and post-interviews were video-recorded and later analysed to understand how various features of the immersive VR activities supported and impeded students’ conceptual understanding and their ability to visualise molecules. Future research directions and the implications for chemistry teaching are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch and Practice in Chemistry Education
Subtitle of host publicationAdvances from the 25th IUPAC International Conference on Chemistry Education 2018
EditorsMadeleine Schultz, Siegbert Schmid, Gwendolyn A. Lawrie
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789811369988
ISBN (Print)9789811369971
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this