Honors Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



McArthur, Morgan, Heidi Diefes-Dux. 2022. Impact of a VR/AR Module on First-Year Students' Understanding of Architectural Engineering: A Comparison Across Demographics. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Morgan McArthur, Heidi Diefes-Dux 2022.


Architectural Engineering (AE) programs typically offer programs of study in at least two subdisciplines that relate to building design and construction. AE students may struggle to select a subdiscipline due to their low exposure and engagement with topics that would inform their decision. Previous research indicates that the immersive nature of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) can increase students’ engagement and motivation regarding course content and discipline decisions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a VR/AR intervention on first-year AE students’ understanding of the AE subdisciplines and choice for future study, with particular attention to demographic subgroup differences. Virtual/Augmented-Reality-Based Discipline Exploration Rotations (VADERs) are instructional modules that engage students in authentic AE tasks. In Fall 2020, the VADER-1 module was incorporated into first-year AE courses at one R1 university and one R2 historically black university. This module encouraged students to explore AE subdisciplines through the virtual design of a clinic. Pre-post intervention surveys and students’ project work were used to investigate change in students’ understanding of AE and its subdisciplines. Students reported that their subdiscipline understanding increased significantly, 74% of students reported an increase in their confidence in their choice, and over 30% of students changed their top subdiscipline choice. Many students felt they learned about the different subdisciplines and how they coordinate on a project as well as the nature of AE project work. VR/AR interventions hold promise for providing AE students with needed exposure to the practice of the discipline and its subdisciplines.