Using Virtual World in Education: The case of Second Life .

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för datavetenskap, fysik och matematik, DFM; Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för datavetenskap, fysik och matematik, DFM

Author: Viri Appaneni; Yenus Likisa; [2011]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: With technology being advanced and many new teaching methods being implemented, considering virtual worlds for teaching is quite innovative and interesting. A virtual environment is an artificially constructed  representation of a natural or imagined environment. Virtual worlds consist of enactment for terrains, avatars, objects, textures, and other forms of digital assets. Many virtual worlds like Alpha World, Delta 3D, Second Life etc. are available today. An avatar can be defined as a computer user’s representation of him/her-self within the virtual environment.        Today, educational institutes have been using virtual worlds in various fields like designing user interfaces, nursing courses,  cooperate training, leadership training programmes. But certain aspects need to be examined thoroughly like how virtual spaces are influencing education, how students and teachers understand learning in virtual worlds while interacting through avatars where communication lacks body language and is limited to seeing, hearing and talking. Our study was conducted on a single course called Business Talking offered in Second Life by Linnaeus University.This course mainly emphasizes on technical and administrative presentations in English.         The main purpose of our study is to investigate how students and teachers understand learning in such environments and identifying the factors which are related to this. Relating to the purpose the research question “How do students and teachers perceive learning through avatar-based interaction in virtual world environments? ”  was investigated.     Pedagogy and general theories like constructivism, cognition, virtual world, synchronous versus asynchronous e-learning were used in our study.     A qualitative interpretative case study was conducted. Data was collected through observations and interviews. All the sessions of the course were observed and  interviews were made with five students and one teacher of the course.     The main results include students perceive more through avatar education as they get a sense of real feeling when compared  to other online education systems. Also, performing activities in different places of SL such as camp fire, near waterfalls, different cultural places etc. made them perceive well as they feel relaxed and less pressure. Second Life's environment helps to simulate real conditions and situations which help them to perceive more. But factors like usability of avatars, technical problems and getting adapted to the environment play an unfavourable role in perceiving learning.  Both the teachers and students have to be constructive and good pedagogical decisions have to be made when a problem arises. Another main result was that, lack of body language does effect in perceiving learning. 

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