The support of virtual 3D worlds for enhancing collaboration in learning settings
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Collaborative learning activities apply different approaches in-class or out-of-class, which range from classroom discussions to group-based assignments and can involve students more actively as well as stimulate social and interpersonal skills. Information and communication technology can support collaboration, however, a great number of pre-existing technologies and implementations have limitations in terms of the interpersonal communication perspective, limited shared activity awareness, and a lack of a sense of co-location. Virtual 3D worlds offer an opportunity to either mitigate or even overcome these issues. This book chapter focuses on how virtual 3D worlds can foster the collaboration both between instructors and students as well as between student peers in diverse learning settings. Literature review findings are complemented by the results of practical experiences on two case studies of collaborative learning in virtual 3D worlds: one on small group learning and one on physics education. Overall findings suggest that such learning environment’s advantages are a promising alternative to meet more easily and spontaneously; and that an integrated platform with a set of tools and a variety of communication channels provides real life world phenomena as well as different ones. On the negative side, there are usability issues in relation to the technical limitations of 3D world platforms and applications, which reduce the potential for learning in such collaborative virtual environments.
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