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Education Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 194363, 11 pages
Research Article

A Case-Based Study of Students' Visuohaptic Experiences of Electric Fields around Molecules: Shaping the Development of Virtual Nanoscience Learning Environments

Department of Science and Technology, Linköping University, 601 74 Norrköping, Sweden

Received 5 October 2012; Accepted 13 January 2013

Academic Editor: Zubair Amin

Copyright © 2013 Gunnar E. Höst et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Recent educational research has suggested that immersive multisensory virtual environments offer learners unique and exciting knowledge-building opportunities for the construction of scientific knowledge. This paper delivers a case-based study of students’ immersive interaction with electric fields around molecules in a multisensory visuohaptic virtual environment. The virtual architecture presented here also has conceptual connections to the flourishing quest in contemporary literature for the pressing need to communicate nanoscientific ideas to learners. Five upper secondary school students’ prior conceptual understanding of electric fields and their application of this knowledge to molecular contexts, were probed prior to exposure to the virtual model. Subsequently, four students interacted with the visuohaptic model while performing think-aloud tasks. An inductive and heuristic treatment of videotaped verbal and behavioural data revealed distinct interrelationships between students’ interactive strategies implemented when executing tasks in the virtual system and the nature of their conceptual knowledge deployed. The obtained qualitative case study evidence could serve as an empirical basis for informing the rendering and communication of overarching nanoscale ideas. At the time of composing this paper for publication in the current journal, the research findings of this study have been put into motion in informing a broader project goal of developing educational virtual environments for depicting nanophenomena.