Teaching Production and Operations Management with Virtual Reality
This project «brings the factory into the classroom» of production and operations management courses using Virtual Reality (VR). The main educational objective of integrating VR in our courses was to enhance the students’ learning experience, which in turn should increase their learning outcomes.
One common teaching approach to provide students with an immersive experience of factories is to organize field trips. While we organize field trips in our courses at ETH Zurich, they have many drawbacks. For example, it can be difficult to get access to factories and entering all the areas relevant to the class may not be permitted. Factory visits require considerable resources to coordinate and organize – especially for class sizes exceeding 25 students. It can also be difficult to fit factory visits into busy study and teaching schedules during the semesters. If a student is absent on the day of the visit, they have a significant disadvantage to the other students and cannot catch up by simply reviewing notes of the experience. Because field trips to factories are burdened with these administrative and logistical challenges, they are, if at all, often organized only once per semester.
We wanted to keep and proliferate the learning experience of exploring a real factory environment, and at the same time remove the limitations of field visits. Due to recent developments in VR technologies, VR offers excellent opportunities to do so. In order to introduce a virtual factory environment for the students, we teamed up with the ABB Group that since 2017 offers VR environments of some of their factories located in Switzerland, Germany and Finland.
The VR-enriched teaching case has been developed, implemented, and evaluated in a cooperation between ETH Chair of Production and Operations Management (POM), ABB Turbochargers and ETH’s administrative department of Educational Development and Technology (LET). The following individuals have been much involved:
Prof. Dr. Torbjørn Netland, ETH, Chair of POM
Karin Brown, Educational Developer, ETH LET
Oliver Flaeschner, Research Associate, ETH, Chair of POM
Omid Maghazei, Research Associate, ETH, Chair of POM
Alain Mazenaur, General Manager, ABB Turbo Systems Ltd.
Volkmar Haueisen, Factory Manager, ABB Baden, ABB Turbo Systems Ltd.
We have used the VR-enriched case in two operations management courses taught at ETH Zurich and evaluated the effects on students’ learning experiences. To assess the effects, we used focus groups, feedback forms, and surveys. We found that students generally perceived that VR improved their learning experience. We will continue to teach production and operations management classes with VR at ETH Zurich.
1) ETH blog post on the teaching innovation: https://blogs.ethz.ch/letblog/2018/05/16/virtual-field-trips-enhance-production-management-classes/
2) Netland, T., Brown, K., Flaeschner, O. & Omid, M. 2018. Bringing the factory to the students: Enriching teaching cases with Virtual Reality. EurOMA. Budapest. (available upon request)
More info: Torbjörn Netland firstname.lastname@example.org