Learning and Assessment with Virtual Worlds

Learning and Assessment with Virtual Worlds

Mike Hobbs (Anglia Ruskin University, UK), Elaine Brown (Anglia Ruskin University, UK) and Marie Gordon (Anglia Ruskin University, UK)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-410-1.ch004
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This chapter provides an introduction to learning and teaching in the virtual world Second Life (SL). It focuses on the nature of the environment and the constructivist cognitive approach to learning that it supports. The authors present detailed accounts of two case studies and provide preliminary analysis of the way in which the environment helps students to achieve both explicit and implicit learning outcomes. The formal assessment for these studies allowed the content, style, narrative and working pattern to be decided by the students. They believe that this approach provides a useful stepping stone between content driven and problem-based teaching techniques. Initial results seem to indicate that students have brought in learning from other areas with a mature approach that enhances their transferable skills in group work, project management and problem based learning. The authors suggest that loosely specified assessments with suitable scaffolding, within the rich environment of Second Life, can be used to help students develop independent, self motivated learning. To support this they map criteria from problembased learning literature and link the learning experience to types of learner.
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Current practice in Higher Education is moving away from didactic content delivery and the transfer of abstract concepts (Goodyear, 2002), towards constructivist, student-centred models with increasing emphasis on the skills that support independent, self-motivated learning. This trend, reported on by the influential Tavistock report (Cullen et al., 2002) is increasingly facilitated by use of e-learning technologies such as virtual learning environments (VLEs), social networking applications and virtual worlds.

While content remains important, the availability of Google, Wikipedia and many other on-line content repositories allows educators to put more emphasis on, transferable, lifelong and problem solving skills. This shift in emphasis can be facilitated by appropriate assessments that allow a broader range of learning outcomes to be assessed. Ideally we want to create a situation where both content and learning skills are practiced and assessed either directly or indirectly. The key to this is to provide activities that intrinsically embody the desired attributes. In the same way that we can develop physical ability by setting an assessment of ‘playing a game of football’, so we can develop other abilities by setting appropriate targets in a suitable environment.

Second Life (SL) (Linden Research, 2008) is a 3-D, online, virtual world using similar technology to the Massively Multi-user On-line Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft (Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore, 2006). Contrary to the typical model where content and activities are devised for users to consume, content is built and owned by its users. Second Life provides tools and guidance for manipulating the environment; allowing action scripting, object construction and an economy that supports the creation of virtual businesses. Students can ground their academic knowledge in meaningful practice and rehearse skills through interaction within a realistic environment (Jonassen, 1997). This also allows for setting tasks and activities in keeping with the problem based philosophy to support exploration and self learning skills. The community aspects of SL provide a rich resource for social constructivism. The focus on user created content means that for any significant project a group of people need to get together, share knowledge and disseminate what they have done to the wider community. Resources in-world are often backed up by web pages, wikis and discussion forums that act as tools to support development and promote the aims of the group. An example of this is the Plymouth Sexual Health (Kamel Boulos & Toth-Cohen, 2008) that supports the in-world activities of the simulation. The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE, 2008) website provides a good example of a community of practice where Second Life provides an additional aspect to an existing web based resource.

Users with experience of strongly-themed role-playing games can find that SL lacks depth and detail but it does allow a closer relationship between the virtual (SL) and real worlds. At its simplest SL can provide a mediated communication mechanism that is little different to a video telephone meeting and no less ‘real’ than a telephone conversation. Although the different forms of avatars can be startling at first it is as well to remember that nearly everything that looks like a person is a real person and a good proportion of outlandish looking things are people too.

The activities of in-world commerce are significant enough to be covered by Business Week (Hof, 2006) and are measured in hundreds of thousands of US dollars with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, freely convertible to US dollars. Real world concerns from media (BBC, Channel 4, Reuters) commercial (Nike, Amazon, IBM), and a growing number of universities have a presence ‘in-world’ as it is called in SL.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Gary Poole
Christine Spratt, Paul Lajbcygier
Chapter 1
Selby Markham, John Hurt
Reliability and validity have a well-established place in the development and implementation of educational assessment devices. With the advent of... Sample PDF
Re-Assessing Validity and Reliability in the E-Learning Environment
Chapter 2
Päivi Hakkarainen, Tarja Saarelainen, Heli Ruokamo
In this chapter the authors report on the assessment framework and practices that they applied to the e-learning version of the Network Management... Sample PDF
Assessing Teaching and Students' Meaningful Learning Processes in an E-Learning Course
Chapter 3
Charlotte Brack
Within the notion of Web 2.0, social software has characteristics that make it particularly relevant to ELearning, aligning well with a social... Sample PDF
Collaborative E-Learning Using Wikis: A Case Report
Chapter 4
Mike Hobbs, Elaine Brown, Marie Gordon
This chapter provides an introduction to learning and teaching in the virtual world Second Life (SL). It focuses on the nature of the environment... Sample PDF
Learning and Assessment with Virtual Worlds
Chapter 5
Paul White, Greg Duncan
This chapter describes innovative approaches to E-Learning and related assessment, driven by a Faculty Teaching and Learning Technologies Committee... Sample PDF
A Faculty Approach to Implementing Advanced, E-Learning Dependent, Formative and Summative Assessment Practices
Chapter 6
Christine Armatas, Bernard Colbert
Two challenges with online assessment are making sure data collected is secure and authenticating the data source. The first challenge relates to... Sample PDF
Ensuring Security and Integrity of Data for Online Assessment
Chapter 7
Robyn Benson
This chapter addresses some issues relating to the use of e-learning tools and environments for implementing peer assessment. It aims to weigh up... Sample PDF
Issues in Peer Assessment and E-Learning
Chapter 8
Paul Lajbcygier, Christine Spratt
This chapter presents recent research on group assessment in an e-learning environment as an avenue to debate contemporary issues in the design of... Sample PDF
The Validity of Group Marks as a Proxy for Individual Learning in E-Learning Settings
Chapter 9
Robert S. Friedman, Fadi P. Deek, Norbert Elliot
In order to offer a unified framework for the empirical assessment of e-learning (EL), this chapter presents findings from three studies conducted... Sample PDF
Validation of E-Learning Courses in Computer Science and Humanities: A Matter of Context
Chapter 10
Richard Tucker, Jan Fermelis, Stuart Palmer
There is considerable evidence of student scepticism regarding the purpose of team assignments and high levels of concern for the fairness of... Sample PDF
Designing, Implementing and Evaluating a Self-and-Peer Assessment Tool for E-Learning Environments
Chapter 11
Andrew Sanford, Paul Lajbcygier, Christine Spratt
A differential item functioning analysis is performed on a cohort of E-Learning students undertaking a unit in computational finance. The motivation... Sample PDF
Identifying Latent Classes and Differential Item Functioning in a Cohort of E-Learning Students
Chapter 12
Christine Armatas, Anthony Saliba
A concern with E-Learning environments is whether students achieve superior or equivalent learning outcomes to those obtained through traditional... Sample PDF
Is Learning as Effective When Studying Using a Mobile Device Compared to Other Methods?
Chapter 13
Thomas C. Reeves, John G. Hedberg
Evaluation falls into the category of those often neglected human practices such as exercise and eating right. All of us involved in education or... Sample PDF
Evaluation Strategies for Open and Distributed Learning Environments
Chapter 14
Madhumita Bhattacharya
This chapter presents a description and analysis of salient issues related to the development of an integrated e-portfolio application implemented... Sample PDF
Introducing Integrated E-Portfolio Across Courses in a Postgraduate Program in Distance and Online Education
Chapter 15
John LeBaron, Carol Bennett
Teachers and designers of computer-networked settings increasingly acknowledge that active learner engagement poses unique challenges, especially... Sample PDF
Practical Strategies for Assessing the Quality of Collaborative Learner Engagement
Chapter 16
Som Naidu
Many teachers commonly use assessment as the starting point of their teaching activities because they believe that assessment drives learning and... Sample PDF
Afterword: Learning-Centred Focus to Assessment Practices
About the Contributors