Multi-User Mixed Reality Environments for Distance Learning

Multi-User Mixed Reality Environments for Distance Learning

Anasol Peña-Rios (University of Essex, UK), Victor Callaghan (University of Essex, UK) and Michael Gardner (University of Essex, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3719-9.ch010
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Abstract

Technological innovation is changing every aspect of our lives and extending into education, where it is introducing profound changes to both the traditional classroom and online learning environments. This chapter explores the future of MUVEs, focusing particularly on immersive mixed reality learning environments and the challenges involved in the shift to multidimensional environments in education. It reviews the earlier developments in MUVEs and identifies a barrier to their deployment in science and engineering education: their inability to support physical collaborative laboratory work. The chapter then explains how advances in mixed-reality research may offer a solution to this problem through a case study of a cutting-edge example of such an approach, the BReal Lab, together with a summary of evaluation results gained from a trial involving students in 5 different countries. Finally, the chapter concludes by reflecting on the issues raised and speculates on possible future directions that work on mixed-reality MUVEs might take.
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Background

E-Learning is perhaps the best-known form of distance learning, involving students accessing online education materials through network enabled computers, in much the same way as we might browse regular libraries and books. It is generally understood as encompassing all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching (Rosenberg, 2000). Thus, the traditional learning paradigm has shifted to a blended learning scenario, with the possibility of combining traditional classroom methods with computer-mediated activities. Garrison and Kanuka (2004) defined a continuum of e-learning with face-to-face (F2F) enhanced classrooms in one end and complete online experiences on the other, where Blended Learning is situated on any point that mixes these two approaches. Blended Learning can be understood as the thoughtful integration of F2F instructional learning experiences with computer-mediated learning experiences. The use of the term “learning experiences” is important because immersive technologies, such as virtual, augmented or mixed reality, have opened up limitless design possibilities which can be applied to many contexts. Therefore, the use of Blended Learning represents a fundamental reconceptualization and reorganisation of the teaching and learning dynamic (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004), introducing more complexity into the design of learning experiences.

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