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Case Study 10 - Virtual Worlds

Case Study 10 - Virtual Worlds

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Published by Tony Toole

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Published by: Tony Toole on Aug 14, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/21/2010

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38
Challenge
Open University (OU) students living in dispersedcommunities oten fnd difculty in attending ace-to-acetutorials. Online group communication tools, such as chatand discussion orums, and social sotware, such as blogsand wikis, oer alternatives but lack the immediacy oace-to-ace encounters. Tutorial activities – or example,ice-breaker activities, research and investigation tasks,discussion, collaborative interaction and role play – canseem constrained by the inability to interact with others inreal time.
e-Learning advantage
In a 3D multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) such asSecond Lie, discussions become more real as a result o thepresence and movement o avatars. Tutors can situatelearning within a context devised or that activity. Studentspresented with challenges to solve, or hypotheses to proveare more likely to defne their own pathways to their learninggoals, collaborating and interacting with others as necessary.Learning in a virtual world enables students to discover neworms o understanding through playul interactions with theenvironment and with others: models o, or example, how theinternet works can be ‘walked through’ to gain a clearerunderstanding o what a student needs to know; researchactivities can take the orm o quests or journeys; and,through avatars, hidden or new representations o the selcan be explored. This combination o playul and purposeulactivity is a beneft rom MUVEs that is increasingly recognised.In this example, student eedback suggests that Second Lieprovides a greater sense o physical presence and proximitythan online discussion orums, and so oers an acceptablealternative to meeting ace to ace:
‘It’s as though you havebeen with other people’
is a commonly expressed view.Students taking part in the OU tutorials start with averageIT skills but must have access to an internet-connectedcomputer with a high-specifcation graphics card and astbroadband connection.
Holding tutorials in a virtual world
The Open University
What is a multi-user virtualenvironment (MUVE)?
A MUVE is a virtual world in 3D or with graphicanimations that can be accessed simultaneously overthe internet by many users. MUVEs such as Second Lie
®
 oer virtual spaces in which educators, groups orindividuals can purchase and design their ownenvironments and interact with others as avatars(virtual people).
10
Case studies o technology-enhanced practice

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