Methods for Assessing 3D Virtual Worlds in Design Education

Methods for Assessing 3D Virtual Worlds in Design Education

Leman Figen Gül (TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Turkey), Ning Gu (The University of Newcastle, Australia), Mi Jeong Kim (Kyung Hee University, Korea) and Xiangyu Wang (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8614-4.ch018
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With the advancement and increasing adoption of information and communication technologies, 3D virtual worlds, being a part of these revolutionary forces, have the potential to make a major contribution to design education as a new teaching and learning environment. Considering this changing trend, we have been employing 3D virtual worlds in the design curriculum over the past decade. To critically understand the impact of the technologies on design education, this chapter explores and demonstrates three different assessment methods of 3D virtual worlds in design education, through three case studies. The chapter also concludes with insights into the applications of virtual environments in collaborative design teaching.
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Design is widely recognized as a type of problem-solving that consists of problem formulation, solution generation and process strategies (Dorst and Dijkhuis 1995; Cross and Dorst 1999). The central concern of design education is to develop students’ capabilities for understanding and solving design problems through appropriate educational courses (Chan and Cheung 2001; Clemons 2006; Gürel and Potthoff 2006). Student designers need to be trained to develop their design abilities, and this focus has the potential to provide a cognitive shift because it can provide new frames of reference that restructure problems in such a way that the creative process is enhanced. Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs) have the potential to enable innovative and effective teaching which involves, for example, collaboration, debate, simulation, role-playing, discussion groups, brainstorming, and project-based group work. Socio-cultural theories of learning may be integrated in teaching in CVEs. The affordances of CVEs as constructive learning platforms centre around providing a shared “place” where distant design collaboration, synchronous and asynchronous communications and design activities take place (Gül et al. 2008). Creative design is closely associated with the concept of restructuring, which reflects a change in the designer’s perception of a problem situation (Ohlsson, 1984). The affordances of CVEs provide the availability and possibility of new ways of designing (Gül et al., 2008), allowing significant time–space independence for learners and teachers (Hara, Bonk, & Angeli, 2000), and facilitating learning activity focused on the production and the use of shared content (Yang, 2007). It is important that teachers have an understanding of students’ potential. This understanding helps teachers to facilitate a learning environment to foster the development of the students’ creative ability.

In design education, 3D virtual worlds have formed new design platforms for collaborative design learning as students can now collectively develop and document design ideas when they are in remote locations. 3D virtual worlds are multi-user online environments developed by applying the metaphor of ‘place’, and have the potential to make a major contribution to design education as instances of new teaching and learning environments which support synchronised communication and 3D modelling. 3D virtual worlds are also new learning platforms which encourage students to explore creative design by responding to the new design contexts and opportunities exhibited in these virtual environments. While teaching in 3D virtual worlds, the students need to obtain design knowledge, which typically forms the construction of buildings and places and issues such as layout design, navigation design and virtual object design (Gül et al. 2007). The most popular interactive online games and the emergent agent-based intelligent worlds, for example, have been leading the fields of interaction and experience design. Once mediated with software agents 3D virtual worlds become intelligent and responsive to their inhabitants (Gül et al., 2007). In fact, 3D virtual worlds create places that users experience just as they are immersed into a virtual world (Bolter & Gromala, 2003).

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