Virtual Environments and Mobile Learning: A Tale of Two Worlds

Virtual Environments and Mobile Learning: A Tale of Two Worlds

Rosa Reis (Porto Polytechnic Institute, Portugal) and Paula Escudeiro (Porto Polytechnic Institute, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-613-8.ch018
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As an answer to these questions, this chapter will define the virtual world concept, distinguish the different types of virtual worlds, and make a comparative analysis between them in order to bring out the features aimed at helping teachers to adopt them in their classes. In particular, we will focus our choice of virtual world environments on open source platforms. As the prevalence of mobile learning increases, this chapter also describes the m-learning scope, its contextualisation and advantages, as well as the learning methods. Finally, the relation of those methods with social virtual worlds is also discussed.
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Virtual Worlds: Defining Virtual Worlds

In order to get a better discernment of the virtual world’s meaning, it is necessary to clarify and get an unambiguous definition of “virtual world” because, when searching virtual worlds, it is possible to find many and different definitions that lead the reader to have confused ideas about the concept.

Richard Bartle (Bartle, 2004) in the mid 70s defines the virtual world as an environment whose inhabitants are regarded as being self-contained. This leads us to the concept of world, but not to the way the world becomes virtual. Raph Koster (Koster, 2004) defines this concept as a persistent space, which may be experienced by several participants at the same time and being represented by avatars. With this definition, some features of virtual worlds can be easily observed: Persistence and multi-user. However, it does not specify the technology required for the virtual world. Edward Castronova (Castronova, 2004) introduced the element of technology when describing virtual worlds as places worked by computers, which are designed to accommodate a large number of people.

If we blend the elements and put the emphasis on people, it is possible to obtain a more precise definition of virtual worlds:

A virtual world is a simulated persistent space based on the interaction by computers, inhabited by several users, who are represented by iconic images called avatars and who can communicate with each other and the world in a synchronized way.

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