Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Industrial Engineering

Committee Member

Anand K. Gramopadhye, Ph.D., Committee Chair

Committee Member

Lisa Benson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian Melloy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Neyens, Ph.D.


Online educational opportunities have provided students with the flexibility to advance their careers and complete certificate and degree programs. These have also provided educational institutions with increased capacity without the investment of costly brick-and-mortar expansions at campuses. Technology programs, however, have shied away from integrating these advances due to their program outcomes being heavily dependent on the use of tools and hands-on learning. This dissertation explores the use of digital learning lectures on linear measuring instruments accompanied with virtual reality tools in technology programs and its effects on both cognitive and psychomotor learning outcomes compared to current modality - face-to-face instruction. The research then investigates the differences in problem-solving self-efficacy and transfer of knowledge that occurs between the two groups. All three studies refer back to the Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development as the theoretical framework (1978). The initial study recruited participants from entry level mathematics courses. It aimed to determine if the digital learning group performed at least as well as the conventional learning group in the educational gains, in skilled-based assessment scores, and perception of learning measures. Additional measures for the digital learning environment were collected to determine usability, technology acceptance, and workload. The between subjects experimental analysis showed statistical difference in the cognitive gains in favor of the digital learning group, but no statistical difference in the skilled-based assessment scores nor the perception of learning measures. A post hoc power analysis determined that a sample size of 102 participants, 51 per group, would be needed to obtain a statistical power at the recommended 0.80 level for a one-tailed test (Cohen, 1988). The second study replicated the first study with adjustments based on lessons learned and a larger sample size (N=86). One major change was that the participants were recruited from first semester students in automotive, aircraft maintenance, and avionics technology programs. This population better reflects the target population for the topic selected to test, metrology. Similar to the initial pilot study, the large scale study aimed to determine the effects of the digital learning materials on the educational gains, in skilled-based assessment scores, and perception of learning measures. The between subjects experimental analysis showed no statistical difference in the cognitive gains nor in the skilled-based assessment scores. However, the results did show statistical difference in the perception of learning measures in favor of the conventional learning group. The final study utilized a subset of the population from the large-scale study for a two-fold investigation: (1) problem-solving self-efficacy scores before and after completing a complex metrology task and (2) the transfer of knowledge that was uncovered during the completion of a complex metrology task. For the former, no significant difference was found in the pre- or post- problem solving self-efficacy scores between the digital learning group and the control group. In addition, both groups experienced positive self-efficacy gains after completing the complex task. These gains were also not statistically significantly different from one another. A transfer of knowledge framework by Rebello et al, (2005) and Hutchinson (2011) was used to analyze think aloud interviews conducted during the completion of a complex task. These revealed various instances of problem feature identification (target tool), mental processes to obtain an answer (workbench), and scaffolded and spontaneous transfer. In addition, themes emerged regarding the measurement systems used and the effectiveness of the digital learning environment. The implications of this work apply to the development of digital learning environments and virtual reality tools for 2-year technology programs. The performance based findings failed to reject that hypothesis that the digital learning group performed as least as well as the conventional learning group. Thus, we can recommend use of the digital learning environment to achieve at least the same mastery level. The qualitative findings, however, showed that participants did not feel that the digital learning environment prepared them well. Therefore, further attention should be paid to the development, scaffolding, and feedback loops of the digital learning environment in order to improve the perception of participants.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.