A Virtual World Workshop Environment for Learning Agile Software Development Techniques

A Virtual World Workshop Environment for Learning Agile Software Development Techniques

David Parsons (The Mind Lab by Unitec, New Zealand) and Rosemary Stockdale (Swinburne University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2012010103
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Abstract

Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) are the subject of increasing interest for educators and trainers. This article reports on a longitudinal project that seeks to establish a virtual agile software development workshop hosted in the Open Wonderland MUVE, designed to help learners to understand the basic principles of some core agile software development techniques. The authors take a design-based research approach that allows for cycles of learning and reflection that has enabled following an iterative path of development through two major iterations. The authors trace the research path followed from the real world workshop to its virtual incarnation, describing the design philosophy and the constructed virtual artefacts. The authors conclude by reflecting on the insights into learner perceptions and practical implementations gained from building and evaluating the virtual workshop.
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Learning In A Virtual World

The use of IT for teaching and learning purposes has generated a vast range of literature as researchers and educators seek to understand how best to use software in an educational environment. The use of technology is arguably well suited to active learning where the learning involves the accumulation of knowledge through problem solving, understanding of the knowledge domain and discussion of the tasks achieved (Mayes & Fowler, 1999; Hadjerrouit, 2004). There has been an early recognition of the concept that if learning is to be achieved, software must be designed to make people think, with the emphasis on the task-based learning to be achieved rather than the technology (Mayes & Fowler, 1999). Similarly, Dickey (2005) recognises that technology tools do not evoke the dynamics of the learning community but that these arise from the interplay of content, instructors and learners. This focus on the learning is further highlighted in Dalgarno and Lee’s (2010) exploration of the potential learning benefits of 3-D virtual learning environments. They use the term affordances rather than benefits to underscore the argument that it is the ‘tasks, activities and underpinning pedagogical strategies’ that are supported by the technology and that it is not the technology that provides the learning (p. 18).

The use of virtual worlds as learning environments has given rise to a very broad range of literature from many disciplines and the need for the adaptation of frameworks to guide researchers in rethinking traditional learning approaches. Dalgarno and Lee (2010) offer a model of learning in 3-D virtual learning environments that presents two broad categories of representational fidelity and learner interaction. The former addresses the quality of the learning environment such as the need to provide quality visual displays, consistency of object behaviours and most importantly the user representation. User avatars allow for construction of an individual’s online identity, fostering confidence in their presence in the environment that contributes to their social interactions. Quality of representation also appears in de Freitas et al.’s (2010) study of immersive learning experiences where they include fidelity, immersion and interactivity as factors of representation in their four dimensional framework for exploring learning activities in virtual worlds.

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