Virtual reality (VR) can be used to enhance teaching in engineering education as it enables designing interactive and immersive exercises integrated with digitized learning spaces. In this paper, we demonstrate two VR learning systems related to rock engineering, geology and mining education developed at Aalto University, Finland. First is the Virtual Underground Training Environment created for the training of structural mapping and rock mass characterization. It consists of a photorealistic 3D model of the Underground Research Laboratory of Aalto University and virtual replicas of mapping tools. It was tested on students and the results demonstrated that training in VR reduces scatter in measured learning outcomes and increases the active learning time by +50%. The second VR learning system was developed for teaching students how to identify rocks and minerals. A collection of more than 100 rock and mineral specimens was digitized using photogrammetry and turned into a digital online learning asset. The two virtual learning systems demonstrate that VR can be a powerful tool to enhance learning in engineering education. Besides the educational potential, the photogrammetric digital models generated for the VR learning systems can be used for remote inspection and rock mass characterization, visualization, and communication of multidimensional data.


Rock mass characterization, structural mapping, and identification of rock types and minerals are common challenges in engineering education for rock engineering, geology and mining. The best environment to train would be a real-life environment with as much variability as possible, and with many correct examples of key concepts and equally many examples of items that may be mistaken as something else. Usually, such environments and samples cannot be used due to limitations of accessibility, time and costs.

Virtual reality (VR) offers a possibility to use the environments and samples in teaching without limitations. The environment or samples are scanned and turned into 3D assets. Then the teaching content and the assets are added into a VR environment to form an interactive 3D learning environment. The benefits of using VR include safety, cost savings, time savings, repeatability, student-paced teaching, context-specific instructions and instant feedback.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.