This paper is a work-in-progress (WIP) and an evidence-based practice paper. As efforts to decarbonize buildings increase, energy workforce development efforts are greatly needed to train the next generation of professionals. One such program that is training this new energy workforce is the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program which aims to increase the efficiency and productivity of small and medium sized industrial facilities and commercial buildings through conducting energy audits. Student training is an integral part of this program, where students participate in all aspects of these audits. However, training participants to be prepared for field work can be challenging without ready access to a manufacturing or commercial space. As immersive technologies have increased in availability, such technologies have the potential to be used to help support training. However, the methods of use and effectiveness of immersive technology for student learning have yet to be evaluated. Virtual Reality (VR) is among the most preferred methods across these immersive technologies. While there are many studies using VR technology, there are no known studies specifically focused on its use for commercial and industrial energy audit training. This WIP paper discusses an overview of the project and proposed methods that use virtual models to train students in energy audit processes and evaluate their effectiveness in comparison to traditional methods of teaching. In this project, first, virtual models as training environments are created by scanning real-world environments and used to train students via computers and VR headsets connected to these created virtual models. As a follow-on evaluation, students’ performance is then assessed during a real-world, in-person energy audit to understand the effectiveness of the various modes of training. Their effectiveness on student learning is then evaluated by conducting surveys and comparing performance metrics. The results can be used by organizations and programs to improve the training of the energy workforce.
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