Interactive and Collaborative Learning in Virtual English Classes

Interactive and Collaborative Learning in Virtual English Classes

Lan Li (Department of English, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/jcit.2013100102
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This paper reports the tactile learning experience with simulated 3D learning environments in an English Department at a Hong Kong university. With the belief that multimedia instruction and multimedia learning help the learner’s construction of knowledge (Mayer 2005, p.2), sections of Second Life were embedded into three separately taught English subjects. Various student activities were carefully designed, such as knowledge hunting, intercultural communication, peer assessment and assimilation of workplace tasks. In order to find out if students are motivated to use SL and if learning through a virtual environment is more effective than a traditional classroom or a 2D online environment, a questionnaire survey was conducted among the students. Student feedback was also retrieved from the reflective essays on the virtual learning activities. Positive feedback asserts that SL is an interesting, interactive and entertaining environment for both independent and collaborative learning. SL can be used for the placement of teaching materials, the demonstration of certain functions, initiating instant communication and enabling peer assessment in the learning process. The main difficulties according to the students are motivation, complications with technology and time consumption. On the whole, we regard Second Life as having future promise for facilitating linguistic development. However, usage of the platform requires substantial resource investment in order to ensure adequate design of interfaces and appropriate virtual activities for learning purposes.
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Organization Background

The Virtual PolyU was built in 2007. It is the first SL campus in Asia with a simulated environment for different teaching & learning tasks. Until now, eleven departments have set up various 3D learning facilities on the virtual campus and served over 4000 student avatars. For example, the Virtual Hotel enables students of tourism to deal with virtual customers; nursing students can practice medics with patients in the Virtual Hospital, and business students can hold virtual negotiations with business avatars. Herold (2010) summarizes the four key educational functions of SL: teaching, learning, assessment, designing and resources. The virtual PolyU English Department was opened in 2009. It was designed as a Tree of Knowledge with five floors: the first and second floors are lecture halls; the third and fourth are exhibition halls for student learning products. The ground floor is a Drama Lab which is currently under construction. There is also a Roof Garden for holding conferences and other activities., The tree could be developed on an even bigger scale, with different branches for different subjects or different functions; the development possibilities are endless within SL, limited really only be resources (Li et al., 2012).

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