Biography

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Currently I am an assistant professor in the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), at the University of Central Florida.

I am interested in interdisciplinary empirical research with virtual reality, simulations, serious games, human-computer interaction, and immersive new media art. Of high interest is the investigation of human factors in system design research, as it influences perception, learning, and creating. Such systems are important as they influence scientific, human, social, and cultural transformations and growth. Find me on Google Scholar and ResearchGate.

My professional experience spans over 20 years in human factors engineering, human-computer interaction, user-centered design, product strategy and software product management, as well as in academic research and teaching. I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1988 with degrees in Economics and Art, and from the University of Pittsburgh with a Ph.D. in Information Science in 2008. My dissertation was on virtual reality, simulations, and human-computer interaction for learning and creating. I am founder and CEO of Virtual Field Trips, LLC, a company bringing educational simulations virtual reality to market, and works of art exploring emotions in virtual reality.

This combination of experiences provides a unique interdisciplinary background, ideal for virtual environments serious games, immersive new media art, and human-computer interaction research and teaching.

My dissertation, “Simulated Ecological Environments for Education (SEEE): A Tripartite Model Framework of HCI Design Parameters for Situational Learning in Virtual Environments,” investigated the empirical inter-relationships between humans, computers, and the environment. My dissertation advisor was Dr. Peter Brusilovsky, eminent scholar in hyper-media, adaptive E-learning, and intelligent tutoring systems.

In my dissertation, I discovered: 1) Real Environments show more learning than Virtual, there is transfer from the Virtual to the Real, and Real to the Virtual, thus indicating that the best educational practice is to use the two environments together. 2) That when the content in the Virtual matches the Real, the learning outcomes are the same. 3) There is significant interaction between Visual Fidelity, as a design factor, and Navigational Freedom, as a design factor, and the combined condition of both High Visual Fidelity and High Navigational Freedom results in far superior Knowledge Gained on tests, thus proving that both of these factors must be present to have the greatest impact on learning.  4) There is no interaction of the two factors for Salient Events, or changes in student behavior from exploration to deep inquiry, and the main effect of Visual Fidelity is a critical software user interface design factor for increased learning activity in Virtual Reality educational simulations.  It alone, is responsible for significantly increasing learning activity. Navigational Freedom, as a factor, shows a strong trend.

I discovered that Visual Fidelity is a critical software user interface design factor for learning and education in Virtual Reality software. Visual Fidelity alone is responsible for significantly higher Knowledge Gained (difference in pre- and post-test scores), learning activity (Salient Events and thus teachable moments), healthy emotional reactions (Awe and Wonder, which is also positively correlated with Knowledge Gained), and a Desire to Create and a Desire to Share. I am an expert in research design in HCI and applied both ethnographic and empirical methods, non-parametric and parametric statistics, to create a test-bed for human factors engineering research of exceptional quality for testing Virtual Reality applications for learning and education.
 

biophotoMy dissertation is about the environmental factors that cause learning and creativity to occur, specifically the environmental factors with respect to computer systems and simulations. The tool impacts what we see, feel, learn, and do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1. Image from The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game.

The Virtual Trillium Trail software is offered to teachers and public schools for free, while I continue to explore a for-profit business model. This is one of those wicket problems. One of how to create IP, sustain a business, navigate conflict of interest, ethics, and legal dimensions, all while creating frameworks that do not exist, but are needed to make it all work.

Artwork based on the visualizations has been professionally displayed, shown, and sold to private collectors. I remain interested in immersive artistic experiences as a new form of art and culture, which offer new perspectives to the viewer. Art, especially fine art as an expression of a society’s culture of that time, as a total accumulation of knowledge, values, and beliefs of that society, and is partially expressed today in our computer games and stories. My work hints at a powerful connection between art and creativity and knowledge seeking behavior in our society. The data on a follow-up study of microworld and creativity is yet to be published, and future work is planned on defining a priori formulas to guide the design of future systems for enhanced creative ability.

United States Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 60/816,357 “Simulated Ecological Environments for Education and Methods of Creating and Implementing Same” Filed on June 23, 2006 No. 60/816,357

Current scholarly interests are in models of complexity, simulation, imagination and art, virtual and real spaces of nature, especially as sources for educational applications. My research agenda is a complex, multi-dimensional investigation of game technology as an aesthetic medium and as a scientific tool used to model the human-computer environment interaction relationships between environmental signals, emotional reactions, and learning.  Research focus is on knowledge acquisition and creativity mediated and supported actions with high fidelity information systems, educational simulations, virtual environments, virtual/augmented reality, immersive learning simulations, and serious games, as they are used for informal learning, formal education, knowledge stores, collaboration, decision support, and creativity. Quantitative and causal models are used to explain the role of context in human perception, signal processing, memory, decision process, and action in the real world. Applications of this research are relevant to the fields of  simulation, educational technology, creativity, and robotics. Many of my grant applications have resulted in funding, and my publications and presentations include peer-reviewed journals and conferences. I plan to write and publish books, file for IP patents, and release commercial software with impact.

Since 1996, I have a record of success in curriculum design, teaching, and assessment, at the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, and Slippery Rock University, and in a broad array of topics: human-computer interaction, software project management, and new media art, in real and blended/online classrooms.

Professional experience includes project/product management, risk management, real time financial decision support systems, strategic information systems, C3I system design, economic and marketing forecasting, SWOT, information technology architecture design, visualization systems, human-computer interaction, and human factors analysis and design activities for global corporations and institutions such as: PNC Financial Services Group, The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Fidelity Investments, University of Toronto, Alias/Wavefront-Autodesk, DataViews–GE Fanuc,  and Federated Investors.  I continue to be interested in advanced graphical user interfaces. 

I welcome inquiries for consulting and career opportunities. Please feel free to email me directly: mcrhprof@gmail.com

A video of the computer game, The Virtual Trillium Trail