Undergraduate students¿ conceptual interpretation and perceptions of haptic-enabled learning experiences
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© 2017, The Author(s).Although visualization remains a primary mode of interaction in simulations, touch is the most common way people use to interact with the physical objects. A greater sense of immersion in a learning environment can be reached when the user is able to feel and manipulate objects as compared to only seeing or listening. Despite the affordances of haptic technologies, which could serve as scaffolds for deep conceptual learning, their true potential in education has not been fully harnessed and little research has been done to investigate its effectiveness for learning difficult concepts. This study explores the potential of haptic technologies in supporting conceptual understanding of difficult concepts in science, specifically concepts related to electricity and magnetism. A pretest-posttest study identified if students improved their conceptual understanding of electricity and magnetism concepts. Specifically, this study identified (a) how students, with different physics background, conceptually interpreted the tactile learning experience in the context of the visualization, and (b) students¿ perceptions on the use of haptic technologies for their learning, as well as their perceived usefulness and ease of use. Our results suggest that overall students significantly improved their conceptual understanding about electric fields for distributed charges after being exposed to a visuohaptic simulation guided activity. Regarding students¿ prior coursework, students with high school-only physics background outperformed students who have been previously exposed to college-level physics courses 8% higher in the posttest average score. Similarly, students overall agreed that they enjoyed using the haptic device for learning and found the technology as easy to interact with. Implications for teaching and learning are provided as well as venues for future work.