A Virtual World Environment for Group Work

A Virtual World Environment for Group Work

E. Brown, M. Hobbs, M. Gordon
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-938-0.ch013
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This article seeks to show that a virtual world can provide a useful addition in the use of computermedi ated learning tools. We discuss the underlying educational context and link this to the properties of virtual worlds and, in particular, that of Second Life. We report on the progress of a project for developing group work that seeks to link affordances in the environment to learning outcomes and employs a socially situated, constructivist, pedagogical framework. We found that a virtual world environment can enable autonomous, differentiated learning through the use of suitably structured tasks, and postulate that an individual’s depth of engagement with the environment may be linked to the learning style.
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The Structure Of Learning

A recent detailed survey of blended learning by the Higher Education Academy (Sharpe, Benfield, Robers, & Francis, 2006) identified three ways of using technology to support teaching in a blended learning environment.

  • 1.

    The traditional mode, the most common, is used to provide access to lecture notes and supplementary material.

  • 2.

    The transformative mode, which is innovative and relatively rare, is when technology is used to radically change course design with emphasis on interaction and communication.

  • 3.

    The holistic mode, currently emerging in use, is when students exercise an informed choice over technology provided by the institution (e.g., dedicated VLE) or from external sources (e.g., online Web-based services). Learning from the institution, from practice, and from experience is viewed as a coherent whole that requires technological support before, during, and after enrollment on a particular course of study.

These different modes of delivery support different types of learning.

Table 1.
Modes of delivery mapped to types of learning
Mode of Delivery (Sharpe et al., 2006)Type of Learning (Mayes & de Freitas, 2004)Comment
TraditionalAssociationistLearning is constructed through the application of explained concepts to illustrative problems.
TransformativeConstructionistLearning is achieved through exploration, reflection, and collaboration. Students apply existing knowledge and experience to integrate new concepts in a personal way.
HolisticSituativeStudents develop through participation in communities of practice, typically within a real-world situation for professional development. The situation provides the context for observation, reflection, and opportunities for mentorship, both to help the student and for the student to share knowledge with others.

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