Collaborative Work and Learning with Large Amount of Graphical Content in a 3D Virtual World Using Texture Generation Model Built on Stream Processors

Collaborative Work and Learning with Large Amount of Graphical Content in a 3D Virtual World Using Texture Generation Model Built on Stream Processors

Andrey Smorkalov (Multimedia Systems Laboratory, Volga State University of Technology, Yoshkar-Ola, Russia), Mikhail Fominykh (Program for Learning with ICT, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway) and Mikhail Morozov (Multimedia Systems Laboratory, Volga State University of Technology, Yoshkar-Ola, Russia)
DOI: 10.4018/ijmdem.2014040102
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In this paper, the authors address the challenges of applying three-dimensional virtual worlds for collaborative work and learning, such as steep learning curve and the demands for computational and network resources. We developed a texture generation model utilizing stream processors that allows displaying large amount of meaningful content in virtual worlds, reducing the technical requirements and allowing convenient tools that simplify the use of the technology, and therefore, improve the negative learning curve effect. The authors present original methods of generating images and several tools implemented in vAcademia virtual world. A tool called Sticky Notes is presented in detail as an example. In addition, the authors provide the evaluation of the suggested model and the first result of the user evaluation.
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In this section, we provide the necessary background on the topic and related work. We support the challenge of the steep learning curve by presenting an overview of learning tools in 3D VWs and related difficulties. The rest of the section deals with using large amounts of graphical content for collaborative work and learning. In this paper, we argue that 3D VWs can be suitable for such activities. Therefore, we provide a background on conducting such activities on both 2D and 3D platforms. Next, we provide an overview of technological approaches to processing large amounts of graphics in 3D VWs, as we provide an original method for that. Finally, we present a brief overview of stream processors, as we use them in the suggested method.

Learning Tools in 3D Virtual Worlds

Most 3D VWs are designed for socializing and entertainment, but not for learning (Kluge & Riley, 2008). Therefore, they appear as a generic platform for educators adapting them for learning. This platform provides a unique set of features that can be used for learning, such as low cost and high safety, 3D representation of learners and objects, interaction in simulated contexts with high immersion (Dede, 2009; Mckerlich, Riis, Anderson, & Eastman, 2011). However, the process of adaptation is often not obvious and requires implementation of learning environments, and most importantly – tools. For example, possibilities for synchronous communication and interaction allow using 3D VWs by various collaborative learning approaches (Lee, 2009). However, the features offered by the platforms are too generic and require adjustment.

One of the most serious challenges in adapting 3D VWs for learning is the lack of features that educators use in everyday teaching: “Most virtual worlds were not created for educational purposes. Second Life, nonetheless, is being adapted by educators […]. Many of the features educators take for granted in Learning Management Systems do not exist in Second Life” (Kluge & Riley, 2008). There is a belief among educators that the 3D VWs should be better used for simulating situations that are difficult or impossible to implement in reality, and not replicating the real-world educational structures (Twining, 2009). However, the absence (or inaccessibility) of familiar and convenient learning tools in the 3D VWs is also contributing to the general attitude towards the technology.

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