Mapping Current Teaching and Learning Practices to Multi-User Virtual Environments

Mapping Current Teaching and Learning Practices to Multi-User Virtual Environments

Niccolo Capanni (Robert Gordon University, UK) and Daniel C. Doolan (Robert Gordon University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-545-2.ch002
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During the course of this chapter, the authors will examine the current methods of pedagogical teaching in higher education and explore the possible mapping into a multi-user virtual environment. The authors consider the process of construction and delivery for a module of student education. They examine the transition of delivery methods from the established, slow changing traditional media, to the modern flexibly of community based, open source driven methods which are the foundation of virtual environments.
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Explanation of Terminology

In degree courses at the Higher Education (HE) level, students are typically taught several distinct subjects in parallel. We refer to each of these subjects as a “module”. Although modules are sometimes spread across a number of academic terms, more often than not each module would run for a single term. We consider a “course” to be the body of academic work that leads to a degree exit award such as BA, BSc, BEng, MA or MSc.

Teaching in Practical Usage

For the purposes of this explanation we will use a generalized and typical module format. The format has been populated with material from a module concerned with Internet development technologies. This is only to assist understanding of the module descriptor. Such a module is loosely defined in the descriptor given in Figure 1. This module format has been adapted for delivery to students of varying backgrounds and expectations: undergraduates, direct entry degree year students and master’s students. This variety has permitted the module leader/s to take advantage of different delivery and assessment methods based on the audience demographics.

Figure 1.

Generalized and typical module descriptor


The description in Figure 1 is sufficiently specific that the students know what to expect, without a rigidity which prevents module adaptation to new technologies or greater course requirements.

The module terms shown in Figure 1 are explained in areas of related purpose as follows:

  • The first properties show whether a module has any pre- or co-requisites and whether it shares sufficient similar areas to preclude any other modules. However these properties are retrospective, looking to earlier modules, and later advanced modules may rely on the student first successfully completing this one.

  • Module aims establish what skills the student should have mastered by completion. Learning outcomes explain how these aims will be summatively assessed, while the assessment plan describes the nature of the examination/s.

  • Workload gives the specific contact time and type of contact as well as indicating the assessment burden and the expected non-contact time the student should spend in directed study or in improving their skills/knowledge in the subject area of the materials delivered.

  • Keywords cover the subject areas that will be addressed. Indicative content gives the students a broader idea of how the module will be composed, but retains flexibility to allow the module lecturer to maintain relevance and introduce variation.

  • Mode of delivery specifies how the knowledge and skills will be delivered during the indicated contact time. These modes cover lectures, laboratories and tutorials as described in the section “Deconstructing a Traditional Module”.

This “mode of delivery” is of importance to this chapter. It supports the purpose of changing the educational environment as a method of delivering the same skills and knowledge in a more efficient, productive or practical manner. What is being discussed here is not the concept of teaching something new, but the concept of new teaching.


Student Backgrounds

Module descriptors such as Figure 1 are relevant at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. At undergraduate level, students may arrive at a module from various backgrounds. First year students come from the shared background of no presumed experience of university education. Students in subsequent years come from two main sub-divisions; those who have progressed though the previous year/s and those who have received alternate entry to the current year, almost always after completing a pre-approved Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) degree at a college of further education.

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