The best way to learn is by having a good teacher and the best language learning takes place when the learner is immersed in an environment where the language is natively spoken. 3D multi-user virtual worlds have been claimed to be useful for learning, and the field of exploiting them for education is becoming more and more active thanks to the availability of open source 3D multi-user virtual world development tools. The research question we wanted to respond to was whether we could deploy an engaging learning experience to foster communication skills within a 3D multi-user virtual world with minimum teacher´s help. We base our instructional design on the combination of two constructivist learning strategies: situated learning and cooperative/collaborative learning. We extend the capabilities of the Open Wonderland development toolkit to provide natural text chatting with non-player characters, textual tagging of virtual objects, automatic reading of texts in learning sequences and the orchestration of learning activities to foster collaboration. Our preliminary evaluation of the experience deems it to be very promising.
Article first published in “Educational Technology & Society”, V. 14 (2011), n. 4, pp. 2-10. Reprinted with permission.
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In this paper, a theoretical model of effective team collaboration in 3D virtual environments is presented. The aim of this model is to enhance our understanding of the capabilities exerting influence on effective 3D virtual team collaboration. The model identifies a number of specific capabilities of 3D virtual worlds that can contribute to this team effectiveness. Compared to “traditional” computer mediated collaboration technologies, 3D virtual environments support team collaboration primarily through (a) the shared virtual environment, and (b) avatar-based interaction. Through the shared virtual environment, users experience higher levels of presence (a feeling of actually “being there”), realism and interactivity. These capabilities increase the users´ level of information processing. Avatar-based interaction induces greater feelings of social presence (being with others) and control over self presentation (how one wants to be perceived by others), thus increasing the level of communication support in the 3D environment. Through greater levels of information and communication support, a higher level of shared understanding is reached, which in turn positively influences team performance. Our paper concludes by presenting several propositions which allow further empirical testing, implications for research and practice, and suggestions for future research. The insights obtained from this paper can help developers of these virtual worlds to design standards for the capabilities that influence effective team collaboration in 3D virtual environments.
Article first published in “Journal of Virtual Worlds Research”, V. 4 (December 2011), n. 3, by the Virtual Worlds Institute Inc., as open access article, published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence.
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