Overcoming Objections to MUVEs in Education

Overcoming Objections to MUVEs in Education

Daniel Laughlin (University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-822-3.ch001
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This chapter addresses some of the objections to the use of multi user virtual environments (MUVEs) in education that proponents of that medium are likely to encounter. Selection of the objections on the MUVEs literature and the author’s experience championing MUVEs as education tools within a government agency. Many of the objections apply broadly to MUVEs of both game and non-game varieties. The goal of this chapter is to help the reader overcome the arguments raised by others to build support for the use of MUVEs. Some guidance is also given for an approach to overcome objections based on mental model theory.
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The rapid growth of personal computer ownership and access in the last two decades of the twentieth century led to many efforts to bring computers into schools and to innovated education with technology. Computer labs became a standard feature in almost every school and personal computers appeared in many classrooms and homes as teachers, administrators and parents in with schoolwork at home. While applications like word process, email and spreadsheets drove business and schools to buy computers, the purchase of many home computers included “and to play games” on the list of justifications. Demand for gaming on computers helped drive the development of greater processing power and better graphics capabilities. While schools tended to focus on business-type applications, a growing population of gamers was demanding and paying for greater power and speed and better visual experiences from their computers at home. Through the 1980s and 90s, graphics moved from monochrome to 16 (CGA) then 64 (EGA) then 256 (VGA) and eventually reach more than 16 million (Truecolor) colors. Game rendering technology advanced from 2D to 2.5D to 3D by the late 1990s.

The first online, shared computer environment was a text-based, fantasy realm called MUD standing multi-user dungeon (Bartle, 1999). It was written at the University of Essex in 1978, and was run on the university mainframe until 1987. It was an adventure game of the swords and sorcery type. What made it different from other games at the time was that people could play together online, and that opened new possibilities for online social interaction and community building (Rheingold, 1993). Other text-based, multi-user environments followed using the term MUD and later MOO, and some are still available. Sometimes the term multi user virtual environment is used for these text-based programs, but often MUVE is reserved for the graphically-based virtual worlds that grew out of the merger of the MUD idea with the increased computer power previously noted. Today there are dozens of MUVEs available. Some of them are massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) like World of Warcraft. Others are not games at all, but shared environments like Second Life without scoring, missions, character classes or other structure features common to games. Often the distinction between games and non-games is hard to make even for those familiar with MUVEs. There is also a lack of consensus about both definitions and terms that further hinders discussion and research.

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