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The Virtual Anatomy Lab: an eDemonstrator pedagogical agent can simulate student-faculty interaction and promote student engagement
Jonathan Weber,Maxwell Hincke,Beata Patasi,Alireza Jalali
Medical Education Development , 2012, DOI: 10.4081/med.2012.e5
Abstract: As medical curricula evolve, many universities have adopted a clinical case-centered medical curriculum with a strong focus on small group learning and reduction of traditional lectures such that anatomy has become a self-taught subject supported by e-learning modules. One caveat of this approach is decreased student-faculty interaction and reduced student engagement. Thus use of e-learning must be balanced with the need for continued student-faculty interaction to promote healthy student engagement. To both support self-directed learning of anatomy and to simulate student-faculty interaction, we created the Virtual Anatomy Lab (VAL) that features a human pedagogical agent, called the eDemonstrator, who guides student navigation through the available learning resources. The VAL was evaluated using a mixed methods approach (usage statistics and focus groups) by two medical student populations at the University of Ottawa: first year medical students in a revised curriculum where anatomy lectures were abolished and laboratory sessions were self-taught, and second year medical students in the former curriculum in which anatomy lectures were given in advance of each laboratory session. We conclude that online modules such as the VAL, well designed with a human pedagogical agent, can be used within the curriculum without negatively impacting student engagement. Ethical Approval for this study was obtained from the Ottawa Hospital Research Ethics Board (protocol number #2009055-01H).
Analogy between Student Perception of Educational Space Dimensions and Size Perspective in 3D Virtual Worlds versus Physical World  [cached]
Noha Saleeb,Georgios Dafoulas
International Journal of Engineering , 2010,
Abstract: One of the prominent practices currently associated with 3D virtual worlds, such as Second Life, is their increased utilization as 3D virtual learning environments (3D VLEs). This study is part of a research in progress dedicated to evaluate different engineering design aspects of these emergent VLEs, and define the impact of their design features on delivering online education. The aim of this paper is to investigate and analogize between users’ perception of space in virtual worlds compared to its corresponding perception in the physical world in terms of area size, dimensions and overall 3D visual perspective. This is achieved by recording the visual estimations of different student categories, within diverse 3D virtual sites, in response to survey questions depicting space size and capacity for holding students and hosting e-learning sessions. Furthermore, the differences in student responses are analyzed and elucidated in order to formulate a hypothesis about how similar or dissimilar users perceive spaces in 3D virtual worlds in comparison with the physical world.
Objects, Worlds, and Students: Virtual Interaction in Education  [PDF]
Athanasios Christopoulos,Marc Conrad,Mitul Shukla
Education Research International , 2014, DOI: 10.1155/2014/318317
Abstract: The main aim of this study is to form a complete taxonomy of the types of interactions that relate to the use of a virtual world for engaging learning experiences, when blended and hybrid learning methods are to be used. In order to investigate this topic more accurately and effectively, we distinguish four dimensions of interactions based on the context in which these occur, and the involved parts: in-world and in-class, user-to-user and user-to-world interactions. In order to conduct investigation into this topic and form a view of the interactions as clear as possible, we observed a cohort of 15 undergraduate Computer Science students while using an OpenSim-based institutionally hosted virtual world. Moreover, we ran a survey where 50 students were asked to indicate their opinion and feelings about their in-world experience. The results of our study highlight that educators and instructors need to plan their in-world learning activities very carefully and with a focus on interactions if engaging activities are what they want to offer their students. Additionally, it seems that student interactions with the content of the virtual world and the in-class student-to-student interactions, have stronger impact on students’ engagement when hybrid methods are used. 1. Introduction Over the past few decades, technology has proven to be a useful tool in educators’ hands and, thus, has attracted researchers’ interest. Technology relates to education in four different ways, that is, technology as a topic (“learning about technology”), technology as a delivery mechanism (“learning from technology”), technology as a tool (“learning with technology”), and technology as the context in which learning takes place (“learning in technology”) [1]. Virtual reality and virtual worlds, which were first introduced to the public in 1980s and have continued to emerge ever since [2], are the cornerstones of “learning in technology” [1]. In the literature [2, 3], virtual worlds are defined as 2D or 3D computer generated environments that either depict parts of the physical world or imaginary sceneries. In these worlds, users are able to perform a wide range of interactions with the content of the world and other users [4], such as object creation [5, 6] and manipulation [6, 7], terrain editing [5], and navigating around the world [2, 5, 6, 8, 9], as well as chatting synchronously or asynchronously, either verbally via voice or written chat or nonverbally using avatar gestures and other forms of in-world visual interactions [6–10]. These kinds of interactions are performed
Virtual Spaces: Employing a Synchronous Online Classroom to Facilitate Student Engagement in Online Learning  [cached]
J. Lynn McBrien,Rui Cheng,Phyllis Jones
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning , 2009,
Abstract: This research study is a collaborative project between faculty in social foundations, special education, and instructional technology in which we analyze student data from six undergraduate and graduate courses related to the use of a virtual classroom space. Transactional distance theory (Moore & Kearsley, 1996) operates as our theoretical framework as we explore the role of a virtual classroom in distance education and analyze the ways in which a synchronous learning environment affects students’ learning experiences. Elluminate Live! was the software employed in the virtual classroom. In this analysis, particular themes emerged related to dialogue, structure, and learner autonomy. In addition, students rated convenience, technical issues, and pedagogical preferences as important elements in their learning experiences. The article discusses these themes as a contribution to reducing the “distance” that students experience in online learning and to developing quality distance education experiences for students in higher education.
Engagement in learning and development
Rhona Sharpe
Research in Learning Technology , 2009, DOI: 10.3402/rlt.v17i1.10770
Abstract: After the previous special issue on immersive virtual worlds, this issue of ALT-J returns to more familiar territory. The opening paper from Carol Russell continues to build ALT-J's corpus of knowledge around institutional embedding of technology; this time through an evaluation of the effectiveness of a staff development programme. The following four papers all explore the challenge of learner engagement from a variety of different angles: instructional design, student support and the pedagogy of innovative, technology-mediated learning environments. As a relative newcomer to ALT-J it seems to me that the distinctiveness of the journal lies in its ability to bring together such a broad range of work.
Virtual Laboratories and Virtual Worlds  [PDF]
Piet Hut
Physics , 2007, DOI: 10.1017/S1743921308016153
Abstract: Since we cannot put stars in a laboratory, astrophysicists had to wait till the invention of computers before becoming laboratory scientists. For half a century now, we have been conducting experiments in our virtual laboratories. However, we ourselves have remained behind the keyboard, with the screen of the monitor separating us from the world we are simulating. Recently, 3D on-line technology, developed first for games but now deployed in virtual worlds like Second Life, is beginning to make it possible for astrophysicists to enter their virtual labs themselves, in virtual form as avatars. This has several advantages, from new possibilities to explore the results of the simulations to a shared presence in a virtual lab with remote collaborators on different continents. I will report my experiences with the use of Qwaq Forums, a virtual world developed by a new company (see http://www.qwaq.com)
Peer mentoring – is a virtual form of support a viable alternative?  [cached]
Joanne Smailes,Pat Gannon-Leary
Research in Learning Technology , 2011, DOI: 10.3402/rlt.v19i2.10351
Abstract: Support systems are vital for university entrants and one established means of support is peer mentoring, which has the potential to improve student engagement and retention. Peer mentoring models are generally based on face-to-face contact. However, given the increasing number of higher education institutions using social media, might online models be beneficial in a peer mentoring context? This article describes a literature review and case study that considers the advantages and disadvantages of three potential virtual models to facilitate a peer mentoring scheme. The case study, undertaken at Northumbria University, UK, involved an investigation of mentoring needs and current usage of electronic media where special attention is afforded to a diverse student body. The three models discussed are virtual learning environments (VLE), social networking sites and virtual worlds. We find that the VLE is established within institutions but lacks excitement; social networking is popular particularly with younger students but there may be resentment if this appears to be appropriated by the institution; whilst virtual worlds are unfamiliar to many students and require advanced skills to use successfully. Based on these findings the social networking model is now being run as a pilot study by business programmes at Northumbria University.
Corporate Training in Virtual Worlds
Charles Nebolsky,Nicholas K. Yee,Valery A. Petrushin,Anatole V. Gershman
Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics , 2004,
Abstract: This paper presents virtual training worlds that are relatively low-cost distributed collaborative learning environments suitable for corporate training. A virtual training world allows a facilitator, experts and trainees communicating and acting in the virtual environment for practicing skills during collaborative problem solving. Using these environments is beneficial to both trainees and corporations. Two system prototypes – the sales training and the leadership training virtual worlds – are described. The leadership training course design is discussed in details.
Building an ecological knowledge of virtual worlds  [PDF]
Pierre-Olivier Montiglio,Julien Céré
PeerJ , 2015, DOI: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.473v1
Abstract: Virtual worlds supporting massively multiplayer games have become so complex that they exhibit temporal and spatial dynamics mostly driven by interactions between players. In this respect, virtual worlds resemble closely natural ecosystems. Studying the ecology of virtual worlds is an outstanding opportunity for ecologists as well as the game industry to collaborate in order to test several aspects of ecological theory difficult to study in nature, and build manageable, resilient virtual worlds.
Verbal Interactions in Virtual Worlds  [PDF]
Pierre Nugues
Computer Science , 2000,
Abstract: We first discuss respective advantages of language interaction in virtual worlds and of using 3D images in dialogue systems. Then, we describe an example of a verbal interaction system in virtual reality: Ulysse. Ulysse is a conversational agent that helps a user navigate in virtual worlds. It has been designed to be embedded in the representation of a participant of a virtual conference and it responds positively to motion orders. Ulysse navigates the user's viewpoint on his/her behalf in the virtual world. On tests we carried out, we discovered that users, novices as well as experienced ones have difficulties moving in a 3D environment. Agents such as Ulysse enable a user to carry out navigation motions that would have been impossible with classical interaction devices. From the whole Ulysse system, we have stripped off a skeleton architecture that we have ported to VRML, Java, and Prolog. We hope this skeleton helps the design of language applications in virtual worlds.
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