The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
The Virtual Solar System is a non-immersive 3D virtual environment. The user flies in the solar system by the computer mouse as a spaceship. There are 4 modes of observation, within each one the user can change his/her point of view, zoom in or out and fly around the object in any direction.
The user has to project himself into this “reality” and to adopt the different points of view, which is not an easy cognitive task, especially for young users. There is an option to add the planetary orbital lines display (see figure). Although this graphic tool reduces somehow the authenticity of the virtual environment, it has a significant advantage in helping him to overcome the lose of orientation and “vertigo” feeling, which usually accompanied to learning in virtual environments. This graphic representation makes the picture clearer and contribute to better understanding. (Gazit & Chen, 2003; Gazit, Chen & Yair, under review; Yair, Mintz & Litvak, 2001)
Gazit, E. (2004). The gain and pain in taking the pilot seat: Interaction dynamics within virtual learning environments. The 3d International Symposium on VR & Rehabilitation, The Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science, University of Haifa, Israel, 17-18 March 2004.
Gazit, E. & Chen, D. (2003). Using the Observer to analyze learning in virtual worlds. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 35(3), 400-407.
Gazit, E., Chen, D. & Yair, Y. (under review). Emerging Conceptual Understanding of Complex Astronomical Phenomena by Using a Virtual Solar System (VSS). The Journal of Science Education and Technology.
Gazit, E., Chen, D., & Yair, Y. (2004). Using a virtual solar system to develop a conceptual understanding of basic astronomical phenomena. In: Cantoni, L., & McLoughlin, C. (Eds.). Proceedings of ED-Media 2004 World conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. (p. 4344-4349). Lugano: Switzerland, June 21-26, 2004.
Yair, Y., Mintz, r. & Litvak, S. (2001). 3D-virtual reality in science education: An implication for astronomy teaching. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 20(3(), 293-305.
Yair, Y., Schur, Y. & Mintz Rachel. (2003). A “Thinking Journey” to the Planets Using Scientific Visualization Technologies: Implications to Astronomy Education. Journal of Science Education and technology, 12(1), 43-49.