My Dome Summative Evaluation Report

November 1st, 2012 | EVALUATION

In August 2009, the Program Evaluation and Research Group (PERG) at Lesley University contracted with the project's PI at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) to evaluate My Dome: Defining the Computational and Cognitive Potential of Real Time Interactive Simulations in an Immersive Dome Environment, an NSF funded grant. The project focuses on creating interactive experiences in immersive virtual environments, and builds off previous work the PI and co PIs have done in developing films and immersive experiences in domes and traveling domes. The project includes staff from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) in Pittsburgh, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS), and the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) at the University of Houston. My Dome has two primary objectives related to the goal of creating immersive experiences (from the project proposal): 1) To conduct research on the opportunities for learning during real time immersive experiences that will be designed for group interaction in the dome environment, and 2) To use the research findings to develop marketable immersive products. Through My Dome, a series of experiences have been developed and tested, including The Temple of Horus, an archaeological exploration of Ancient Egypt, and several other environments including a Northeastern forest, a moon base, and Tikal, a Mayan village. The evaluation questions, developed in conjunction with project staff, consist of the following: 1) How do visitors interact with the technology? Which visitors benefit the most from the exploration of virtual environments? What age group, learning style, interests, and other demographics are best suited for these types of immersive experience shows? 2) Which tools and presentation techniques best facilitate the interactions with the show? 3) What challenges occur [for visitors and for the developers] in producing this type of show/immersive experience? 4) What is the ideal group size for these interactive experiences? How does the group aspect of the exploration affect an individual's experience (and do their roles within the group have an impact on their experience? 5) How do the concepts, skills, and content presented in the shows relate to participants' broader life experiences? For example: Does the Temple of Horus reinforce students' learning in the classroom? Do these interactive experiences spark students' interest in STEM careers? While these original evaluation questions were, for the most part, still applicable, the focus of the evaluation shifted slightly to accommodate the needs of the project, and of each individual show/immersive experience. The evaluators collected data related to video game use and preferred learning style among Temple of Horus viewers, but did not collect similar data for the other experiences. Since the context of visitors' experiences varied between the experiences, it was difficult to draw comparisons between these products. Project staff and the evaluators did not have the opportunity to collect data related to students' interest in STEM careers, and the potential impact of these experiences on their interest in STEM. Finally, the Moon Base was still under development at the time of this report, and we did not have data from users.The evaluators found that My Dome staff successfully created four diverse experiences for dome settings, which could be shown in school (traveling dome) and museum (planetarium/large screen) settings. Each experience presented different challenges to project staff, and each appears to be engaging for some, if not all, participants. A number of factors identified in this report, including group size, age/other demographics of the participants, the skills of the guide, time spent in the dome, and other contextual factors such as viewers' interest in a particular topic all appeared to influence the dome experience. One of the experience developers, cited in this report, commented on the relative newness' or youth of the field of Virtual Reality and the use of domes for interactive experiences. Over the course of this grant, My Dome staff have added to the breadth of knowledge in this emerging field, and have identified new questions, which merit further study. The appendix of this report includes the PI Interview Protocol and Living Forest Survey (Post) used in the study.



Team Members

Judah Leblang, Evaluator, Lesley University
Elizabeth Osche, Evaluator, Lesley University
University of New Hampshire, Contributor


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: HCC
Award Number: 0916098
Funding Amount: 499841

Related URLs

HCC: III: Small: MyDome - Defining the Computational and Cognitive Potential of Interactive Simulations in an Immersive Dome Environment


Access and Inclusion: Low Socioeconomic Status | Rural
Audience: Adults | Evaluators | Families | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | General STEM | Geoscience and geography | Nature of science | Space science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Interview Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative | Survey
Environment Type: Media and Technology | Planetarium and Science on a Sphere