Collaboration and the Use of Three Dimensional Interface within a Virtual Learning Environment

Collaboration and the Use of Three Dimensional Interface within a Virtual Learning Environment

Brian G. Burton (Abilene Christian University, USA), Barbara Martin (University of Central Missouri, USA) and Doug Thomas (University of Central Missouri, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0011-9.ch709
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This chapter’s goal is to examine the experiences and perceptions of undergraduate students using a 3D Virtual Learning Environment. After creating a 3D didactic constructivist virtual environment, student conversations were observed for collaborative elements. Findings revealed that five forms of collaboration amplified the learning process and indeed occured within the virtual learning environments. Results further suggested that the 3D VLE project, though limited in time and scope, successfully created a community of learners.
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Conceptual Underpinnings


Why is the occurrence of collaboration within 3D Virtual Learning Environments important? According to Bruffee (1999), conversation must exist for re-acculturation to occur. Without re-acculturation, the student will not gain the essential vocabulary that is critical to the educational process. By examining conversations within the 3D VLE, it is possible to check for the existence of collaboration. Consequently, as Bransford et al. (1999) noted, “It is easy to forget that student achievement in school also depends on what happens outside of school” (pp. 16-17). By recognizing the communities and the acculturation of the learner Bruffee (1999) argued it is possible to create a new community and new conversation that is necessary when creating new knowledge.

Moreover, Bruffee (1999) expanded this concept of learning as a collaborative process by casting the process of learning as the re-acculturation of the learner. Meaning that in order to fully participate in a community of learners, a student or learner must gain new vocabulary, knowledge and language skills as one continues to participate within the culture of learning. This learning process is, by its very nature, a collaborative process (Bruffee). Furthermore, in this re-acculturation process, Bruffee argued that the learner must gain a new vocabulary to participate within the collaborative community. Without the proper vocabulary to express ourselves effectively, he postulated that often we are unable to participate, let alone understand the communities with which we have find ourselves because “our worlds were closed by walls of words” (Bruffee, 1999, p. 6). Thus by distributing knowledge and authority amongst themselves, a group becomes a collaborative community.

Consequently, in defining what collaboration includes, Crook (1996) listed three basic cognitive benefits of peer collaboration: articulation, conflict, and co-construction. Crook noted that peer collaboration causes students to be more explicit in the public declaration of their ideas. When a student states his or her concept, he or she must be clear and concise in opinion and interpretation. A student will inevitably be faced with conflicting interpretations causing conflict to arise. In the resolution of this conflict, students must defend their interpretation and reflect on their stance. Borrowing from Vygotsky (1978), Crook’s co-construction is the process of students constructing shared knowledge by sharing and building upon each others’ ideas.

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