Design and Robots for Learning in Virtual Worlds

Design and Robots for Learning in Virtual Worlds

Michael Vallance (Future University Hakodate, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-516-8.ch017
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The meme of the physical university is changing and moving swiftly, due mostly to virtual technological developments, towards the “multi-versity” where Higher Education Institutes will exist in both the real world and a virtual space: a term this chapter names “augmented education.” Augmented education requires innovation in technology that can deliver new ways of learning. Therefore, virtual worlds that support effective experiential learning need to be designed beyond merely established real world replication. The concern for researchers and educational practitioners is the need to provide evidence-based frameworks for tasks of measurable complexity that result in verifiable learning in an augmented virtual world. In an attempt to develop a framework for science education this chapter summarizes the theoretical and technical progress of research in the iterative, leaner centered design of virtual tools and associated tasks for evidencing the processes of learning (witnessed as measurements of six cognitive processes and four knowledge dimensions) of participants communicating the programming of LEGO robots within a virtual world.
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Introduction: Augmented Education

The inception of augmented education has become a realistic image scenario for university futures. The blending of real and virtual is becoming accepted as augmented reality is placed into the hands of consumers in the form of iPhone Apps such as ‘Layar’ and ‘Acrossair’. Moreover, virtual worlds such as Second Life and MMORPG games such as ‘World of Warcraft’ have assisted the progress of a virtual presence that supplements real persona. Augmentation is not the sole domain of consumers though. Researchers systematically develop scenarios and images of education as transformative and sometimes disruptive futures (Vallance & Wright, 2010). Virtual institutes will consequently evolve to 24/7 open access quite similar to current service offered such as iTunesU, MIT Open Courseware, Open University UK, Kaplan University, and many others. The meme of the physical ‘uni-versity’ is consequently changing and moving swiftly, due mostly to virtual technological developments, towards the ‘multi-versity’ where Higher Education Institutes will exist in both the real world and a virtual space. The worry for university traditionalists and its administrative bureaucrats is enormous. The concern for researchers though is to design educationally effective spaces and produce metrics that provide evidence of learning in the augmented institutes.

The focus of this chapter is on augmentation. Augment is a transitive verb which is defined as meaning to make greater, as in size, quantity, strength, and to enlarge. Engelbart uses this term to emphasize the role of technology in a human context; technology is to be designed to increase human capabilities, to extend them in imagined and unimagined ways, to change the basic character of communities, and to make these more effective. The components of an augmented system are the bundle of all things that can be added to what a human is genetically endowed with, the purpose of which is to augment these basic human capabilities in order to maximize the capabilities that a human organization can apply to the problems and goals of human society. Augmentation systems have always existed; they have often been developed unconsciously. Throughout history, augmentation systems have emerged as a result of continuing socio-cultural capability (Ambron & Hooper, 1988).

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