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Applying 3D Virtual Worlds to Higher Education

Eero Palomäki ,    
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Increasing interest in 3D virtual worlds has lead to the creation of hundreds of such environments and to an expansion in the scale of their application. A considerable amount of research has focused on reporting experiences of using virtual worlds in education. However, less attention has been paid to the production process of a course that utilizes 3D virtual worlds. The aim of this research was to identify important themes related to such production process based on experiences of educators that have used virtual worlds. A process model for producing a course utilizing 3D virtual worlds was created as a product of this research.
Literature review was conducted to find advantages and problems related to virtual world usage in education. Reported advantages included conducting activities in a risk-free environment, enchanting collaboration and communication, increasing engagement, enabling an alternative space for instruction and tasks, and the visualization of difficult content. Respectively, reported problems included the difficulty to find appropriate value-added educational applications; the inability to read “natural” physical cues; technological issues; costs; behavioural, health and safety issues; the lack of standards; and user adoption problems. The electronic mailing list of a Second Life educator community was analyzed for focus themes that should have an impact on the production process. Found themes included the importance of virtual community support, technical problems, and using ready-made resources. Based on existing models of course production process, one was created taking into consideration issues specific for virtual worlds and found focus themes from the community analysis. The model describes the environment, different phases, roles, provides ideas for creativity, and advices to avoid problems. It can be used as a starting point for or as a checklist in planning and producing a university course. With a few modifications, the process model can be used in other environments as well. The introduction of new technology to teaching states new requirements for the organization, such as requirements for IT infrastructure, education planning, teaching, flexibility, new customer service view, and organizational learning. The strategic level view and practical implications were considered in the discussion section.
Von Eero Palomäki in der Masterarbeit Applying 3D Virtual Worlds to Higher Education (2009)

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Begriffe
KB IB clear
E-LearningE-Learning, Second lifeSecond life, Virtual CommunityVirtual Community

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