Building a virtual classroom : an education environment for the internet generation
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This thesis examines the provision of learning environments that enable people to participate in high-quality learning experiences without physically travelling to classrooms and classes. New technologies enable the asynchronous web currently based on text, images, and video, to be extended to facilitate multi-channel synchronous communications. There is significant potential to enhance learning using the 3D worlds used for interactive gaming, populated by avatars representing the participants, and chat systems using text and audio channels. The purpose of this study was to investigate the development and use of 3D web-based learning environments. Staff and students from an Information Technology degree programme at one New Zealand Polytechnic participated in the study. The design and use of 3D web-based learning environments were integrated into one paper over six years. Data were collected from the teachers of this paper and the programme in which it was embedded.A survey instrument was used to collect data, along with artefacts from the software design and development plus the web-based environments created. Computer logs, and records of chat sessions were collected to enable analysis of the activities that took place in the new learning environments. Follow-up interviews were conducted with a sample of students after the completion of their study. Analysis of these data included collations of statistically significant relationships between environmental factors and the design features of the 3D web-based environments created. Results indicate that the 3D web-based environments were well received by the students and show significant potential for the future provision of learning environments. The technology has no negative impact on students’ perception of their learning environment; however, it did not have the expected positive impact on their communications with peers or teaching staff. This research suggests directions for the future development and application of 3D webbased technologies to fully enable their potential to be achieved in educational learning environments.
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