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Virtual Reality Enhances Safety Training in the Maritime Industry: An Organizational Training Experiment with a non-WEIRD sample

Guido Makransky and Sara Klingenberg

March 13, 2022

Journal of Computer Assisted Learning


Many industries struggle with training dynamic risk assessment, and how to bridge the gap between safety training and behavior in real life scenarios. In this article, we focus on dynamic risk assessment during a mooring operation and investigate the potential value of using immersive virtual reality (VR) simulations compared to standard training procedures in an international maritime training organization. In a pilot study, we compared two ways of implementing a VR simulation (stand-alone or with post-simulation reflection) to a manual and a personal trainer condition in a between-subjects design with 86 students in a maritime school. Based on the results we compared the stand-alone VR simulation to the personal trainer condition in a between-subjects design in a non-Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) sample of 28 seafarers from the Kiribati Islands at an international maritime training organization. The VR simulation group reported significantly higher perceived enjoyment (d = 1.28), intrinsic motivation (d = 0.96), perceived learning (d = 0.90), and behavioral change (d = 0.88), and significantly lower extraneous cognitive load (d = 0.82) compared to the personal trainer group, but the differences in self-efficacy, and safety attitudes were not significant. The results support the value of using VR to train procedures that are difficult to train in the real world and suggest that VR technologies can be useful for providing just in time training anywhere, anytime, in a global market where employees are increasingly cross-cultural and dislocated.

Full citation:

Makransky, G. & Klingenberg, S. (2022). Virtual Reality Enhances Safety Training in the Maritime Industry: An Organizational Training Experiment with a non-WEIRD sample. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 10.1111/jcal.12670.


Cognitive load theory (CLT) has been widely used to help understand the process of learning and to design teaching interventions. The Cognitive Load Scale (CLS) developed by Leppink et al., (2013) has emerged as one of the most validated and widely used self-report measures of intrinsic load (IL), extraneous load (EL), and germane load (GL). In this paper we investigated an expansion of the CLS by using a multidimensional conceptualization of the EL construct that is relevant for physical and online teaching environments. The Multidimensional Cognitive Load Scale for Physical and Online Lectures (MCLS-POL) goes beyond the CLS’s operationalization of EL by expanding the EL component which originally included factors related to instructions/explanations with sub-dimensions including EL stemming from noises, and EL stemming from both media and devices within the environment. Through three studies, we investigated the reliability, and internal and external validity of the MCLS-POL using the Partial Credit Model, Confirmatory Factor Analysis, and differences between students either attending a lecture physically or online (Study 2 and 3). The results of Study 1 (N = 250) provide initial evidence for the validity and reliability of the MCLS-POL within a higher education sample, but also highlighted several potential improvements which could be made to the measure. These changes were made before re-evaluating the validity and reliability of the measure in a new sample of higher education psychology students (N = 140, Study 2), and DEVELOPMENT AND VALIDATION OF THE MCLS-POL 3psychological testing students (N = 119, Study 3). Together the studies provide evidence for a multidimensional conceptualization cognitive load and provide evidence of the validity, reliability, and sensitivity of the MCLS-POL and provide suggestions for future research directions.

Full citation:

Andersen, M. S., & Makransky, G. (2021). The Validation and Further Development of the Multidimensional Cognitive Load Scale for Physical and Online Lectures (MCLS-POL). Frontiers in Psychology.

Motivational and Cognitive Benefits of Training in Immersive Virtual Reality Based on Multiple Assessments

Guido Makransky, Stefan Borre-Gude, and Richard E. Mayer

July 4, 2019

Journal of Computer Assisted Learning


The main objective of this study was to examine the effectiveness of immersive virtual reality (VR) as a medium for delivering laboratory safety training, based on multiple assessment methods.  We specifically compare an immersive VR simulation, a desktop VR simulation, and a conventional text-based safety manual.  A sample of105 first year undergraduate engineering students (49 males and 56 females) participated in an experimental design wherein students were randomly assigned to one of the three training conditions.  We include five types of learning outcomes including post-test enjoyment ratings; pre- to post-test changes in intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy; a post-test multiple choice retention test; and two behavioral transfer tests.  Results indicated that the groups did not differ on the immediate retention test, suggesting that all three media were equivalent in conveying the basic knowledge.  However, significant differences were observed favoring the immersive VR group compared to the text group on the two transfer tests involving the solving problems in a physical lab setting (d = 0.54, d = 0.57), as well as on ratings of perceived enjoyment (d = 1.44) and increases in intrinsic motivation (d = 0.69) and self-efficacy (d = 0.60).  The desktop VR group scored significantly higher than the text group on one transfer test (d = 0.63) but not the other (d = 0.11), as well as on the perceived enjoyment (d = 1.11) and increases in intrinsic motivation (d = 0.83). The results suggest that behavioral measures of transfer in realistic settings may be necessary to accurately assess the instructional value of VR learning environments.

Full citation:

Makransky, G., Borre‐Gude, S., & Mayer, R.E. (2019). Motivational and cognitive benefits of training in immersive virtual reality based on multiple assessments. J Comput Assist Learn. 2019; 35: 691– 707.

Adding immersive virtual reality to a science lab simulation causes more presence but less learning

Guido Makransky, Thomas S. Terkildsen, and Richard E. Mayer.

December 26, 2017

Learning and Instruction


Virtual reality (VR) is predicted to create a paradigm shift in education and training, but there is little empirical evidence of its educational value. The main objectives of this study were to determine the consequences of adding immersive VR to virtual learning simulations, and to investigate whether the principles of multimedia learning generalize to immersive VR. Furthermore, electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to obtain a direct measure of cognitive processing during learning. A sample of 52 university students participated in a 2 × 2 experimental cross-panel design wherein students learned from a science simulation via a desktop display (PC) or a head-mounted display (VR); and the simulations contained on-screen text or on-screen text with narration. Across both text versions, students reported being more present in the VR condition (d = 1.30); but they learned less (d = 0.80), and had significantly higher cognitive load based on the EEG measure (d = 0.59). In spite of its motivating properties (as reflected in presence ratings), learning science in VR may overload and distract the learner (as reflected in EEG measures of cognitive load), resulting in less opportunity to build learning outcomes (as reflected in poorer learning outcome test performance).

Full citation:

Makransky, G., Terkildsen, T. S., & Mayer, R. E. (2019). Adding immersive virtual reality to a science lab simulation causes more presence but less learning. Learning and Instruction, 60, 225-236.

Simulation based virtual learning environment in medical genetics counselling: an example of bridging the gap between theory and practice in medical education

Guido Makransky, Mads T. Bonde, Julie S. G. Wulff, Jakob Wandall, Michelle Hood, Peter A. Creed, Iben Bache, Asli Silahtaroglu, and Anne Nørremølle.

March 25, 2016

BMC Medical Education



Simulation based learning environments are designed to improve the quality of medical education by allowing students to interact with patients, diagnostic laboratory procedures, and patient data in a virtual environment. However, few studies have evaluated whether simulation based learning environments increase students’ knowledge, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy, and help them generalize from laboratory analyses to clinical practice and health decision-making.


An entire class of 300 University of Copenhagen first-year undergraduate students, most with a major in medicine, received a 2-h training session in a simulation based learning environment. The main outcomes were pre- to post- changes in knowledge, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy, together with post-intervention evaluation of the effect of the simulation on student understanding of everyday clinical practice were demonstrated.


Knowledge (Cohen’s d = 0.73), intrinsic motivation (d = 0.24), and self-efficacy (d = 0.46) significantly increased from the pre- to post-test. Low knowledge students showed the greatest increases in knowledge (d = 3.35) and self-efficacy (d = 0.61), but a non-significant increase in intrinsic motivation (d = 0.22). The medium and high knowledge students showed significant increases in knowledge (d = 1.45 and 0.36, respectively), motivation (d = 0.22 and 0.31), and self-efficacy (d = 0.36 and 0.52, respectively). Additionally, 90 % of students reported a greater understanding of medical genetics, 82 % thought that medical genetics was more interesting, 93 % indicated that they were more interested and motivated, and had gained confidence by having experienced working on a case story that resembled the real working situation of a doctor, and 78 % indicated that they would feel more confident counseling a patient after the simulation.


The simulation based learning environment increased students’ learning, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy (although the strength of these effects differed depending on their pre-test knowledge), and increased the perceived relevance of medical educational activities. The results suggest that simulations can help future generations of doctors transfer new understanding of disease mechanisms gained in virtual laboratory settings into everyday clinical practice.

Full citation:

Makransky, G., Bonde, M.T., Wulff S.G. J., Wandall J., Hood M., Creed, A. P., Bache I., Silahtaroglu A., & Nørremølle A., (2016). Simulation based virtual learning environment in medical genetics counseling: an example of bridging the gap between theory and practice in medical education. BMC Med Educ 16, 98 (2016).

Improving biotech education through gamified laboratory simulations

Mads T. Bonde, Guido Makransky, Jakob Wandall, Mette V. Larsen, Mikkel Morsing, Hanne Jarmer, and Morten O. A. Sommer.

July 8, 2014

Nature Biotechnology


A large proportion of high school and college students indicate that they have little interest in science, and many students graduate with marginal science competencies It has been suggested that this results from an exaggerated focus on memorizing facts, listening passively to lectures and performing 'cookbook' laboratory exercises in science education, rather than stimulating students' natural curiosity, and highlighting the intricate connection between science and “real world problems”. Although several studies have challenged the effectiveness of traditional teaching methodsThese methods continue to dominate science education. This is not only problematic for students but is a major challenge for the biotech industry, which depends on highly educated graduates with up-to-date knowledge and skills.

A recent report published by the US National Research Council regarding the use of computer games and simulations in education analyzed all available studies and concluded that “simulations and games have great potential to improve science learning in elementary, secondary and undergraduate science classrooms”. Moreover, the US Department of Education's National Education Technology Plan states, “The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students' daily lives and the reality of their futures”.

Because laboratory experiments can be expensive, time consuming and occasionally constrained by safety concerns, laboratory courses as an adjunct to classroom lectures are often the first classes to be removed from a curriculum. This is unfortunate because several theoretical science courses benefit from an experimental counterpart. Particularly within biotech, new techniques and methods are constantly enhancing and replacing existing research practices, and these developments soon become essential knowledge for biotech professionals. Nevertheless, the latest equipment and consumables are often prohibitively expensive, making it almost impossible for universities and schools to provide students with access to updated equipment such as next-generation DNA sequencing machines.

In response to this need, several simulations have been developed for science education, most of which focus on symbolic representations of experiments wherein students can alter parameters and simulate different outcomes. De Jong et al. recently reviewed studies comparing physical and simulated laboratory education and concluded that both physical and virtual laboratories “can achieve similar objectives such as exploring the nature of science, developing teamwork abilities, cultivating interest in science, promoting conceptual understanding and developing inquiry skills.” Although physical laboratories are required for students to develop practical laboratory skills, virtual laboratories offer several other advantages, including allowing students to explore unobservable phenomena, enabling learners to conduct a number of experiments in a short period of time and providing adaptive guidance. However, most simulations are primarily focused on accurately imitating physical phenomena and not on optimizing student learning.

A recent literature review identified only a few studies that compared traditional classroom teaching with the use of simulations in biotech teaching between 2001 and 2010. One study reported an increase in students' usage of accurate explanations after using a bioinformatics simulation, and others reported a significant increase in test scores using a simulation based on cell theory. Similarly, a learning effect was demonstrated using the simulation MyDNA, a program that involves a two-dimensional representation of gel electrophoresis wherein students can alter voltage and gel concentrations and then observe the differential speed of DNA fragments.

Educational games are increasingly being used for learning biotech. Sadler et al. reported the implementation of a three-dimensional (3D) biotech educational game (Mission Biotech), wherein gaming features were highlighted. A high learning outcome, particularly with lower-level students, was observed. Research regarding the effectiveness of games for science education is only beginning to emerge, and to our knowledge no prior research studies performed to assess the effectiveness of gamified simulations for enhancing biotech education have included a scientific design with control groups.

We hypothesized that combining gamification elements with simulations may provide an opportunity for even greater gains in learning effectiveness and motivation of biotech students. We developed and tested an advanced laboratory simulation platform based on mathematical algorithms supporting open-ended investigations and combined this with gamification elements such as an immersive 3D universe, storytelling, conversations with fictional characters and a scoring system. We then set out to assess the effect on learning effectiveness and motivation to investigate whether gamified laboratory simulations may be an affordable opportunity for providing state-of-the-art training in biotech.

Full citation:

Bonde, M., Makransky, G., Wandall, J., Larsen V. M., Morsing M., Jarmer H., & Morten O. A. Sommer., (2014). Improving biotech education through gamified laboratory simulations. Nat Biotechnol 32, 694–697 (2014).

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