Recently, some colleagues and I wrote a paper identifying the cognitive and learning theories underlying the virtual reality (VR) learning application, VR Anatomy, by 3D Organon. In essence, it is a program that contains a highly interactive, detailed, and customizable 3D human anatomy model. It allows for users to manipulate different organs of the body, isolate specific body systems, see and hear names of body parts, and watch the skeletal-muscular system in motion. Relevant theories are embodied cognition, situated cognition, and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory. A simple comparative table shows how VR Anatomy compares in affording certain learning goals with typical anatomy teaching methods: lecture, physical models, and dissection.
Our paper finds the learning affordances of VR Anatomy to be similar to the traditional use of 3D physical anatomy models; however, the prohibitive costs of buying the equivalent physical models to what is available in VR Anatomy tips the balance in favor of of the VR intervention. Even with the cost of an appropriate high-end computer, a VR headset (i.e. HTC Vive or Oculus Rift), and the VR Anatomy application, it is still significantly less than purchasing many specialized physical models.
The paper, co-authored by Elliot Hu-Au, Kyle Oliver, and Yigu Liang, can be found here.