An Interdisciplinary Design Project in Second Life: Creating a Virtual Marine Science Learning Environment

An Interdisciplinary Design Project in Second Life: Creating a Virtual Marine Science Learning Environment

Riley Triggs (University of Texas at Austin, USA), Leslie Jarmon (University of Texas at Austin, USA) and Tracy A. Villareal (University of Texas Marine Science Institute, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1770-4.ch007
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Abstract

Virtual environments can resolve many practical and pedagogical challenges within higher education. Economic considerations, accessibility issues, and safety concerns can all be somewhat alleviated by creating learning activities in a virtual space. Because of the removal of real-world physical limitations like gravity, durability and scope, virtual space allows for an expansion of possibilities and approaches to knowledge transfer and discovery learning and becomes an “environment for information” rich with collaborative possibilities. Experimentation and participation in conceptual as well as applied projects is encouraged for both students and instructors. One of these virtual environments, Second Life, was used in a cross-disciplinary project for the creation of a Marine Science virtual class environment as an assignment for design students at a major southwestern research university in the United States. This paper reports on the findings from a project that utilized Second Life as a medium for enhancing and extending design education using a process of interdisciplinary collaboration.
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Introduction

Virtual environments allow for experimentation and participation in conceptual and applied projects by teachers and students together. In this paper, one of these virtual environments, Second Life, was used in a cross-disciplinary project for the creation of a Marine Science virtual class environment as an assignment for Design students at a major southwestern research university in the USA. The purpose of the study was to address five research questions:

  • 1.

    Was there a change from before to after the course in terms of what the participants reported they knew or understood about the key course concepts as described in the course objectives? (see below under Objectives of the Design Class).

  • 2.

    If participants reported prior gaming experience, did that prior experience play a role in participants’ understanding of virtual worlds and their impression of Second Life?

  • 3.

    How and during what kinds of situations and class activities does learning occur in Second Life?

Therefore, this paper reports on the findings of using Second Life (SL) as a medium for enhancing and extending Design education in an interdisciplinary and collaborative context.

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Virtual Worlds And Second Life

Three-dimensional virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL) are rapidly being accepted and used in instructional settings. Indeed, the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning initiative (2007) identified virtual worlds as an emerging technology that is likely to have a large impact on teaching and learning within higher education in the near future.

Thus far suggested positive instructional effects of virtual worlds include the common and uncommon benefits of games, such as accommodating learning preferences of Net Generation students, enhancing student motivation and engagement, providing opportunities for social interactions and facilitating collaboration. To this we can also add, increasing a sense of shared presence and experience, dissolving social boundaries, and allowing free exploration, creation, and use of the environment, data and media content (Craig, 2007; Dede et al., 2005; FitzGerald, 2007; Gee, 2003; Jarmon, 2009a; Jarmon et al., 2009; Jenkins, 2007, cited in Craig, 2007; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2003; Lamb, 2006; McGee, 2007; Prensky, 2006; The New Media Consortium, 2009).

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