iVisit: Using Virtual Humans in 360 Immersive Digital Site Visits of Complex Spatiotemporal Contexts

Masoud Gheisari
Assistant Professor
University of Florida

Need: Site visits have been a tool utilized by STEM educators to engage students in active learning, assist traditional lessons, and attain stronger and deeper student learning experiences. These visits are widely utilized in many STEM fields, including construction education, as they provide a robust method to connect classroom learning to real-world situations and enable student interaction with experts and professionals on the site. Site visits present great potential in helping students to practice problem resolution, collaboration, and communication skills, which are considered necessary 21st century skills for STEM students to develop for entering the workforce. Nevertheless, site visits have major logistical and accessibility challenges, such as safety concerns, large class size, tight class timetables, and unavailability of appropriate sites. The limitations have further broadened recently, as COVID-19 public health concerns have forced educators to move to online course delivery quickly and most site visits have been canceled.

This study developed the iVisit platform – 360 immersive digital environments powered by conversational virtual humans. iVisit offers unique opportunities to transform construction education by eliminating the critical barriers of site visits. By using iVisit, students can have access to location-independent skill-practice opportunities within the situated site visit, using real-world information where contextualized learning is dangerous, unsafe, or impossible to achieve. The iVisit platform has been developed to specifically provide students with opportunities to practice problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills during site visits.

Guiding Questions:
• How does iVisit enable opportunities for instructors to incorporate real-world site visits into classroom teaching?
• How does iVisit enable students to develop problem-solving and collaboration skills?
• How does iVisit enable students to practice communication skills?

• It was found that iVisit was above average in terms of usability, indicating that students perceived it as easy to use system, and they also perceived the virtual visit as realistic and immersive.
• iVisit provided students with opportunities to engage in discussions with each other, rapidly iterate solution approaches, discover new information, and validate their thoughts and ideas. A hierarchical relationship between student problem-solving and collaborative behaviors was observed in this study, indicating that problem-solving behaviors must take place to enable the occurrence of collaborative behaviors.
• iVisit enabled students to listen and understand virtual human (virtual site visit subject matter expert)’s statements, explain their key findings to the virtual human, ask for clarification and feedback, and eventually reinforce the knowledge they have learned by applying it during the virtual visit. This study revealed the significance of implementing the communication component in the virtual site visit.

Broader Impacts: The iVisit innovation can help transform the business-as-usual practices of site visits and bring in the important visuospatial aspects to the site visit experience that relies so much on student problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and understanding of the ever-changing spatiotemporal characteristics of each jobsite. The contribution of this research focuses on providing educators and researchers an understanding of how to develop and refine 360-degree panoramic site visit interventions to foster student 21st century skills of problem-solving, collaboration, and communication.


Ricardo Eiris, Michigan Tech, Houghton, MI; Jing Wen, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Masoud Gheisari, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL