Design and Evaluation of a Collaborative Learning System for 3D Model Sharing

Design and Evaluation of a Collaborative Learning System for 3D Model Sharing

Tsai-Yen Li, I-Sheng Lin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7018-9.ch013
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Due to the prevalence of 3D printers, many applications of 3D printing have been developed for education in the recent years. Although there are web sites hosting 3D models created by students and allowing them to be shared with others, these systems usually lack educational functions, especially for collaborative learning. On the other hand, most learning management systems do not provide functions needed for sharing and viewing 3D models. In this chapter, a system called 3D model co-learning space (3D MCLS), dedicated to collaborative learning, will be reported. The system allows a user to store, share, display, and discuss 3D models and allows a teacher to manage a group of students in a flexible way. Furthermore, the system can create the thumbnail of a 3D model automatically. It uses tags to organize models into groups according to their attributes or teams in a class. In addition, it provides blind assignments of peer reviews. The authors have implemented such a system and conducted a pilot study to obtain a preliminary evaluation on the usability of the system.
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3D printed models refer to the physical 3D models that can be produced with the additive manufacturing technologies that become easily accessible in the last decade (Gibson, Rosen, & Stucker, 2014). Especially, under the recent maker movement, 3D printed models have been widely used in various applications for fast prototyping. Makers typically use 3D modeling software to create their own customized models or download existing 3D models to produce printed models to support their applications.

3D Model Sharing System

Most of the 3D model sharing services are not designed for educational uses. 3D model is a type of digital content that can be managed in traditional Learning Management System (LMS). However, since the way to share and view 3D models is more content specific, most LMS’s do not provide specific functions to provide special supports to this type of content, neither do the associated Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS). Therefore, most websites that share 3D models are standalone and independent of existing LMS’s. In fact, most of the 3D model sharing services were set up for sharing models created for 3D applications such as computer game development or animation creation. Some exceptions are set up by the manufacturers or retailors of 3D printers to provide model storage services for their customers. For example, My Mini Factory ( is a website maintained by the retailor, iMakr that features guaranteed printable 3D models. Thingiverse ( (see Figure 1) is another popular service, maintained by Makerbot, a 3D printer manufacturer. Most of these websites support model sharing, searching, viewing, and commenting to some degree. However, instead of small group discussions in an educational setting, the target users are the public who have created good 3D models to share or are trying to find a good model to use. Tinkercad ( is an on-line 3D modeling website that provides easy-to-learn 3D modeling functions on a web browser as shown in Figure 2. Because the system is more for educational uses, Tinkercad also supports sharing of teaching plans as well as tutorial documents. However, it does not allow a group of users to perform peer assessment in an integrated environment. A system that can support 3D model specific functions as well as model sharing and learning is highly desirable in the educational context.

Figure 1.

Snapshots of the system interfaces by Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory

Figure 2.

Snapshots of the system interfaces by TinkerCad


Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Learning: A situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together with an aim that knowledge can be better created or learned within a population where members actively interact by sharing experiences.

Self-Assessment: The process of looking at oneself to assess aspects that are important to one's identity and to enhance their certainty of their own self-knowledge.

On-Line 3D Model Sharing: The functions and activities allowing users to share and reuse their design results of 3D models on the internet.

Peer Assessment: A process whereby students or their peers grade assignments or tests based on a teacher’s benchmarks to save teachers time and improve students' understanding of course materials.

Application Programming Interface: A set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools with clearly defined methods for the communication of software components in building an application software.

Additive Manufacturing: Manufacturing a product by adding thin layers on top of previous ones instead of removing materials. 3D printing is an example of additive manufacturing becoming popular in recent years.

3D Model Co-Learning Space: A collaborative learning platform in cyberspace to promote the learning of 3D printed models in a design cycle.

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