JavaMOO Virtual Cells for Science Learning

JavaMOO Virtual Cells for Science Learning

Bradley Vender (North Dakota State University, USA ), Otto Borchert (North Dakota State University, USA), Ben Dischinger (North Dakota State University, USA), Guy Hokanson (North Dakota State University, USA), Phillip McClean (North Dakota State University, USA) and Brian M. Slator (North Dakota State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch411
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Abstract

One of the World Wide Web Instructional Committee (WWWIC) at North Dakota State University’s (NDSU) long running projects is the Virtual Cell, a desktop immersive virtual environment developed for biology education. The focus of the content in the Virtual Cell is cellular biology, and the underlying focus of the content modules is the scientific method and analytical reasoning. However, the technical challenges encountered during the course of the project include designing deployable server architectures, designing robust simulations, and developing high quality animations without losing interactivity.
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The Virtual Cell

The Virtual Cell as implemented is a client server system where the server is responsible for the persistence of the shared environments, arbitrating state changes, and facilitating communication between players. The client is responsible for constructing the appropriate view of each shared environment and for providing the user interface elements appropriate to each environment and task. In order to display the environments, the primary role of the client is to load and display the scenes which are stored on the server and that compose that environment. As a result, the client’s scene loading algorithm shapes how the client and server interact.

In the Virtual Cell, the basic element of the game is the goal. A goal represents either a single objective or a group of simple related objectives that the player is tasked to achieve, or a set of steps which the player is tasked with achieving. Also associated with each goal is a set of reference materials to explain various aspects of the activity that the player should be attempting to accomplish.

Figure 1.

Various Scenes in the Virtual Cell

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