Open Source Virtual Worlds for E-Learning

Open Source Virtual Worlds for E-Learning

Pellas Nikolaos (University of the Aegean, Greece)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch742
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Introduction

In this contemporary era with the rapid penetration of Web 2.0 services and transactions in e-Education, it is urgent for students and instructors to utilize new media sources and online learning environments in order to reinforce their technological literacy. Concurrently, some of the most important needs which have occasionally concerned many scholars or educators are as follows:

  • 1.

    The students’ participation without geographical or time constraints in a common place (Sher, 2009);

  • 2.

    The maintenance cost of each learning environment (Littlejohn, 2005);

  • 3.

    The students’ engagement in the educational process (Gebre, Saroyan, & Bracewell, 2012);

  • 4.

    The students’ abilities to communicate with others anywhere in the world (Eppler, 2007); and

  • 5.

    The minimization of training course costs in online settings, something that can be accomplished today by the utilization of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) (Ruth, 2012).

On the other hand, the radical use of the Web 2.0 services (see social networking sites, blogs, wikis, and recently virtual worlds) for educational purposes is growing at an exponential rate. Despite the widespread acceptance of two-dimensional (2D) systems, until nowadays it seems that did not apply on users’ co-presence with interactive applications, i.e. couldn’t be produced as additional data processing for the implementation of “constructive” information analysis. The effectiveness of these systems varies because of the way that these systems were designed, and the pattern of usage from the stakeholders is not always freely or well-established.

Several studies (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2004; Tayebinik & Putch, 2012) have pointed out some disadvantages from the utilization of 2D learning environments, such as: (a) the insufficiently support for various collaborative e-learning processes, (b) the inadequately interactive conditions that cannot help distributed students to participate in learning procedures in a common place, (c) the poor cooperation between students that is provided, and last but not least (d) the poor students’ satisfaction that can be also provoked. The lack of students’ coexistence in a common place may lead to dropout rates and in these circumstances can create users' feelings of disconnection, resignation, isolation or lack of concentration which can affect negatively to their sense of awareness and co-presence (Keengwe & Schnellert, 2012).

Researchers and scholars are rightfully concerned with some of the most persistent educational problems facing with ICT-based transactions or Web 2.0 services today. While with the 2D computer-oriented interfaces of Web 2.0 can frequently be discerned some problems, on the other hand the three-dimensional (3D) Virtual Reality (Virtual Reality, VR) technologies can solve some problems that e-learning faces in nowadays. An improved understanding that “there is some in a 3D place or space” with a variety of visual applications, according to the sense of a psychological “illusion” in a 3D cyberspace is being provided simultaneously to all users. Alongside the social and cultural identity that is getting lost with Learning Management Systems (LMS) or MOOCs can be recovered precisely with the 3D VR technology and the visually-rich environment can allow students to gain innovative constructive experiences (Pellas & Kazanidis, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Immersion: The illusion of user’s existence or otherwise the state of consciousness in a virtual environment (sense presence).

Interaction: The potential adaptation in the virtual world according to user’s actions in real time.

Engagement: The user’s state of action and contemplation towards a set of stimuli or conceptually interrelated activities or events in a virtual environment.

Scaffolding: It refers to the instructor’s approval on his/her students by helping them to construct the new knowledge field. In scaffolding processes the instructor can use sources, questions or recommendations for the activities and phases provided when students certainly have constructed their knowledge and act with other peers independently.

Metaverse: The “Metaverse” is a collaborative online of shared (virtual) space created by the convergence of other virtually-enhanced persistent virtual spaces (grids).

Hyper Grid: Usually, open source VWs use an open-ended functional characteristic known as “hyper grid.” This characteristic allows users to teleport between multiple “Open Sim-based” VWs by providing a hyperlinked map which includes public grids, in order to retain teleportation links to each of these grids.

Collaborative E-Learning: The collaborative e-learning involves two key aspects of learning: (a) the situation of a collaborative process in which the learning process takes place by utilizing various communication forms between students, and (b) the interaction that takes place between group members, such as negotiation or cooperativeness.

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