Benefits of Virtual Worlds in Educational Environments

Benefits of Virtual Worlds in Educational Environments

Vicente Galiano (Miguel Hernandez University, Spain) and Victoria Herranz (Miguel Hernandez University, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1987-6.ch015
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Abstract

In this chapter, the authors describe the project of a virtual world that they developed in their university and with their students. In this work, they joined concepts like social networks and virtual reality, creating a virtual model of the University Miguel Hernandez (UMH), where students are able to walk around the campus, inside the buildings, chat with other students, and moreover, use videoconferencing rooms where students talk and see other students in the same virtual world. The authors describe this project, called UMHvirtual (available in http://virtual.umh.es), which has been supervised by the authors, implemented by a group of students, and focused on all the university students.
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Background

Virtual reality (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003) has evolved considerably in recent years, mainly in videogames over computers and last generation consoles. Young people and students are used to using virtual reality environments primarily. With this interest in virtual reality, social networks have created several Internet-based virtual reality such as Second Life (Trahan, Adams, & Dupre, 2011), IMVU, Exit Reality, or Habbo.

Second Life is the best-known 3D virtual community. It was created in 2003 and enjoys a wide international attention. One of its main features is that the world is created by its users and they can interact, play, communicate and do business in it as well One of its advantages is that the registration in this community is free and enables users to modify any aspect of the virtual world or even build anything in 3D. Any characteristic related with the physical appearance of the avatars, their movements or sounds are also customizable. Second Life has its own economy and its own currency, called Linden dollars, used by residents to buy and sell items created within the virtual world. This community is different from others because Second life does not use a Web browser. The users need a specific application to run it, with very high system requirements. Despite its virtues, Second Life has not garnered much success as expected, but it was a milestone in the way we navigate and interact with other users on the Internet.

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