Learning as Immersive Experience: Learning and Teaching Practices in Virtual Worlds
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As virtual worlds come of age, their potential for applications supporting teaching and learning is becoming increasingly recognised. This chapter outlines a transition of learning, centring on the uptake of new tools for supporting Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in universities and colleges. In particular, the use of technologies such as virtual worlds is increasing the pedagogic toolkit of teachers and tutors, providing unique opportunities to support and enhance teaching and learning. In particular, the use of virtual worlds to reach remote, distance, and online learners is creating new opportunities for face-to-face engagement and motivation with difficult-to-reach groups. To evidence and explore this potential, this chapter documents the main findings from several studies which focus upon defining and examining the key components which contribute towards the efficacy of an ‘immersive learning experience’. This includes the main findings of the UK JISC-funded MyPlan project, wherein Second Life, a desktop virtual world, was used to support career decisions and educational choices among two groups of learners, the first from a college and the second from a university. These findings are compared to those arising from the UK Technology Strategy Board-funded Serious Games: Engaging Training Solutions (SG-ETS) project, which sought to develop and assess three high-fidelity serious games. The chapter focuses upon four specific components of virtual worlds and immersive learning techniques: personalisation through learner modelling, integrative feedback, intrinsic motivational quality, and what the authors term ‘social interactive learning’. These four criteria are discussed with respect to the study, providing a basis for future ongoing studies that explore the efficacy of immersive virtual worlds as an alternative for, and supplement to, traditional learning environments.
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