CSCL Techniques in Collaborative Virtual Environments: The Case of Second Life

CSCL Techniques in Collaborative Virtual Environments: The Case of Second Life

Thrasyvoulos Tsiatsos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), Andreas Konstantinidis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), Theodouli Terzidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), Lazaros Ioannidis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and Chrysanthi Tseloudi (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-822-3.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter reviews and compares the most promising collaborative virtual environment platforms, which have been used or proposed for supporting educational activities in terms of their potential to support collaborative e-learning. The most promising environment according to the results of this review is Second Life. Second Life is further examined by validating the platform‘s features, philosophy and policies against some basic design principles for collaborative virtual learning environments in order to better assess its design adequacy for online learning. Furthermore, the chapter will present the features that the authors have implemented within the Second Life platform, in order to facilitate both the jigsaw and fishbowl collaborative e-learning techniques. Finally, the authors will present a case study concerning the evaluation of Second Life by undergraduate students in order to assess its potential to support these collaborative e-learning techniques.
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Background

The term MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environment) is currently used to describe a persistent three dimensional graphical environment, accessed over the Internet, which allows a large number of concurrent users, represented by their ‘avatars’ to interact synchronously (Salt et al., 2008). In general, all MUVEs enable multiple simultaneous participants to access virtual contexts, interact with digital artefacts and represent themselves through “avatars” (in some cases graphical and in others, text-based). Furthermore, through MUVEs users are able to communicate with other participants (which in some cases are computer-based agents), and take part in experiences incorporating modelling and mentoring about problems similar to those in real world contexts (Dede et al., 2004).

A Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE) is a form of MUVE. More specifically, it is a computer-based, distributed, virtual space or set of places. In such places, people can meet and interact with others, with agents, or with virtual objects. CVEs might vary in their representational richness from 3D graphical spaces, 2.5D and 2D environments, to text-based environments (Churchill et al., 2001). Access to CVEs is by no means limited to desktop devices, but might well include mobile or wearable devices, public kiosks, etc. It is interesting to note that CVEs have been around way before the World Wide Web was invented; but have not been adopted on anywhere near the same scale. This is possibly because of their complexity and base requirements being much more demanding, or possibly the content being much harder to create.

The CSCL field moved the focus of attention from individual cognitive approaches towards a socio-cultural paradigm, emphasising knowledge building in learning communities. Therefore, in CSCL learners use the Internet to learn from and communicate with knowledgeable members of the adult community. They can also become involved in educational online communities with individuals from different geographical regions. As is elaborated upon in the following paragraphs, this approach is grounded in social constructivism.

According to Dillenbourg (1999), any virtual environment that integrates the following features can be characterised as a collaborative e-learning environment:

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