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Design Considerations For Virtual Classroom And Laboratory Environments

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Computer Education Innovations

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.415.1 - 14.415.16



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Paper Authors

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Charles Lesko East Carolina University

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John Pickard East Carolina University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Design Considerations for Virtual Classroom and Laboratory Environments Abstract

With the ever-increasing demand for distance education one of the key challenges facing faculty is not only delivering effective instruction through both lecture-style and laboratory means, but also giving students an environment with a sense of presence. The key challenge here is to improve on the distance student’s capabilities for interaction and collaboration thereby enhancing their ability to work in more group and team settings. In short, virtual environments present distance students with exciting new forums for meeting and sharing their thoughts and ideas in real-time.

Today’s virtual environments like Second Life (SL) provide students with open-ended opportunities for exploration and invention. This has broad reaching implications for faculty, and allows for the delivery of course content in stimulating and highly engaging manners. However, before these virtual environments can be implemented as academic tools, virtual spaces in the form of classrooms and laboratories need to be designed and developed to facilitate student and faculty interaction.

This effort describes considerations made when designing some of the early virtual classroom and laboratory spaces developed within a newly established virtual campus. Once these spaces were built, class sessions were conducted and the students were surveyed in order to document their first impressions of the experience. Finally, the survey responses are analyzed and consideration is made for the establishment of design criteria for further virtual site development.


The recent emergence and rapid growth of the numerous virtual online environments has energized several efforts within various educational institutions to evaluate SL’s possible value within the academic process. One of the most successful of these is the phenomenon known as Second Life (SL). SL is a three-dimensional virtual world created by its participants (commonly referred to as residents) and since it’s unveiling in 2003, scores of educators from over 130 colleges and universities have begun to evaluate SL as an educational platform. 1

The growth of SL in the education arena has been wide-spread and global. However, before academia can evaluate this relatively new environment, virtual spaces need to be planned, designed and developed that allow for academic discussion and identification of new pedagogical uses for this communication media. As with any new delivery mechanism each must undergo a process of building, evaluation, and assessment with virtual environments being no exception.

Although the value of SL as an academic tool is still in its early stages of evaluation, many in academia have begun to experiment with its utility and are reporting some positive early results. Recently, academics using SL in various distance education classes have indicated that “communication among students actually gets livelier when they assume digital personae.

Lesko, C., & Pickard, J. (2009, June), Design Considerations For Virtual Classroom And Laboratory Environments Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5251

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