Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Janelle M. Bailey

Second Committee Member

Hasan Deniz

Third Committee Member

P. G. Schrader

Fourth Committee Member

Dale Etheridge

Fifth Committee Member

Doris Watson

Number of Pages



Technology in college classrooms has gone from being an enhancement to the learning experience to being something expected by both instructors and students. This design-based research investigation takes technology one step further, putting the tools used to teach directly in the hands of students. The study examined the affordances and constraints of two simulation tools for use in introductory astronomy courses. The variety of experiences participants had using two tools; a virtual reality headset and fulldome immersive planetarium simulation, to manipulate a lunar surface flyby were identified using a multi-method research approach with N = 67 participants. Participants were recruited from classes of students taking astronomy over one academic year at a two-year college. Participants manipulated a lunar flyby using a virtual reality headset and a motion sensor device in the college fulldome planetarium. Data were collected in the form of two post-treatment questionnaires using Likert-type scales and one small group interview. The small group interview was intended to elicit various experiences participants had using the tools. Responses were analyzed quantitatively for optimal flyby speed and qualitatively for salient themes using data reduction informed by a methodological framework of phenomenography to identify the variety of experiences participants had using the tools. Findings for optimal flyby speed of the Moon based on analysis of data for both the Immersion Questionnaire and the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire done using SPSS software determine that the optimal flyby speed for college students to manipulate the Moon was calculated to be .04 x the radius of the Earth (3,959 miles) or 160 miles per second. A variety of different participant experiences were revealed using MAXQDA software to code positive and negative remarks participants had when engaged in the use of each tool. Both tools offer potential to actively engage students with astronomy content in college lecture and laboratory courses.


Design-Based Research; Introductory Astronomy; Motion Sensor Device; Planetarium; Simulation Tools; Virtual Reality Headset


Astrophysics and Astronomy | Education | Science and Mathematics Education

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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