June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Computers in Education
15.86.1 - 15.86.11
A Second Life Virtual Studio as an Online Teaching Environment Abstract
In this paper the development of a virtual learning environment in Second Life is detailed. The learning environment described is in the form of a virtual television studio for use in multimedia engineering courses, with an example implementation described for RMIT University’s offshore campus.
This paper details the problems associated with offshore learning and lists the requirements needed for creating an effective virtual learning environment for these offshore students. This paper also discusses the steps taken to create this virtual environment in the virtual world Second Life and the problems that have been faced due to hardware and software limitations in this particular virtual world. Finally, the steps to be taken to evaluate the effectiveness of this type of learning environment will be outlined.
Distance learning is considered to be one of the most challenging areas in the field of education; students who have no access to on-campus facilities and little to no face-to-face contact with academic staff and fellow students face the risk of not being able to engage in course-work material and can feel isolated1.
Since its inception in 2003 Second Life (SL) has been considered as a potential aid in solving some of the problems associated with distance learning. SL is a virtual world consisting of a 3- dimensional environment with most of its environment and objects primarily designed and created by its users (also known as residents). Each resident in SL creates their own avatar when they sign up, these avatars are virtual representations of the resident and can be anything from an accurate reproduction of their real world appearance to fantasy creatures and 'furries' (animal avatars)2.
The appeal of Second Life in the area of distance education stems from several factors. Firstly, the diverse communication tools available, these include text chat, instant messaging and the relatively new voice chat feature. Chat is a useful communication method where every avatar within a certain radius of the speaker can 'hear' the conversation; this is clearly an important tool if a learning environment is being created as it allows synchronous (real-time) interactions between students and instructor or students and other students for collaborative work3. Instant messaging (IM) is also an important tool that can be used in more asynchronous learning situations where a student can ask a question of the instructor even if the instructor is not logged in at the time. The voice chat option also has potential in lecture or tutorial style classes for a more auditory learning experience.
Another appealing factor in using SL in a distance learning situation is the perceived sense of being ‘together’ in the same space in the 3-D environment. This is strengthened by the ability to see other user's avatars. In the work by Dickey3 it was noted that off-campus students felt this
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