Virtual reality for biochemistry education: the cellular factory

Barrow, John; Hurst, W.S.K.; Edman, Joakim; Ariesen, N.; Krampe, C.


Virtual Reality (VR) involves the coupling of visual communication hardware and software. The technology is capable of offering transformative educational practice and is increasingly being adopted within the biochemistry domain to better understand complex biochemical processes. This article documents a pilot study for the efficacy of VR in biochemistry education at undergraduate university level, focusing on the citric acid cycle: a central process for extracting energy in most cellular life forms. 10 participants were equipped with a VR headset and electrodermal activity (EDA) sensors, then immersed within a digital environment where they were able to learn the 8 main steps of the citric acid cycle within a virtual lab by completing 8 levels of activity. Post and pre surveys were taken, along with EDA readings throughout the students’ interaction with VR. Research findings support the hypothesis that VR increase students’ understanding, particularly if students feel engaged, stimulated and intend to use the technology. Moreover, EDA analysis indicated that the majority of participants demonstrate enhanced engagement in the education-based VR-experience as measured by elevated levels of skin conductance, a marker for autonomic arousal and a measure of engagement in an activity.