Virtual Worlds in the Educational Context

Virtual Worlds in the Educational Context

Felipe Becker Nunes (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil), Fabrício Herpich (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) and Leo Natan Paschoal (University of Cruz Alta, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch690
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Abstract

Virtual worlds have constantly been exploited in recent years in education, which are developed educational activities with the use of multimedia resources and simulation within the 3D environment for the student to interact and learn about a particular topic. On this basis, this chapter presented a systematic review of virtual worlds applied in education, were selected several articles between 2010 and 2015 coming from conferences and magazines. Results show a large amount of educational theories that have been used as basis for the construction and implementation of educational activities in virtual worlds, where the integration of existing features in virtual worlds with educational concepts has resulted in positive and instigators results from the experiments.
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Introduction

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are changing the daily activities of human beings, promoting the process of teaching and learning, facilitating the construction of knowledge. In recent years, ICTs are becoming stable in the educational context, as they allow different ways of presenting content to students (Quintana and Fernández, 2015). Technological resources to support the transmission of knowledge can be represented by heterogeneous formats, such as simulations, games, virtual worlds, videos, animated agents and avatars, web pages, among others.

Virtual worlds appear as technological tools to support construction of knowledge and for this reason has been the subject of study by different researchers over the past few years. There are many educational institutions that use virtual worlds, as they offer to the student an interaction similar to the real world, permits the student to get involved with various activities and learn in an interactive way, acquiring new skills (Mateu et al. 2013). Hulsey, Pence and Hodges (2014) point out that, students represented by avatars can get a better learning experience watching and/or participating in practical activities in virtual worlds.

Abreu et al. (2012) argue that the process of application development focused on education, in addition to the use of principles stemming from Software Engineering (e.g. extraction requirements, requirements analysis and modeling), should be concerned with the incorporation of learning theories.

There is scientific evidence that shows promising results when researchers link pedagogical concepts in the construction and application of educational systems. Virtual learning environment Moodle, for example, was designed and developed from social constructivist epistemology (Moodle, 2016). Currently, numerous educational institutions, to support the process of teaching and learning, use this environment. In the field of virtual worlds, Nunes et al. (2016) show that use of Mastery Learning theory in the context of virtual worlds for education contributes to reveal optimistic results regarding performance advancement to the students.

Seeking to identify learning theories used in virtual worlds applied in the educational context and obtain an overview of what is being researched and developed in this area, as for in order to investigate the scientific production related to the theme and highlight possibilities for future research, this chapter has order to present a systematic review of literature. Thus, primary studies were researched in article format, indexed by journals and international conferences, considering the period of last five years (2010-2015). To achieve this, research questions was created aiming to consolidating quantitative and qualitative information found.

To present the research conducted; this chapter was organized with a descriptive section about the concepts inherent in virtual worlds, contextualizing the reader about this area. It is also presented some of the currently existing major difficulties and problems in this area, and later presented the listed research and analysis of the results obtained in this study. Finally, future directions for the application of virtual worlds in education and final considerations of this chapter is presented.

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Background

Also known as, immersive virtual environments, virtual worlds are tools that permits reproducing aspects of the real world or fantasy in a virtual space, providing its users a controlled environment with numerous opportunities and experiences. Griol et al. (2014) corroborate stating that three-dimensional spaces are simulated by computer, which can be exploited in first or third person, through a graphical representation called avatar.

Increased use of virtual worlds in different application contexts, allowed their inclusion in the educational field, from which emerge new opportunities for use of these computing resources as support and even motivation in the learning process of its members. In this sense, is possible to claim that these immersive environments, besides offer a combination of simulation tools, which enhance user interactions and consequently the way they learn, also provide a sense of immersion, as well as the opportunity for communication and collaboration between its users, justifying its application in activities related to the educational field.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Theories: A formal thinking that searches to resolve and instruct, as to explain how students can understand and construct knowledge in education.

Virtual Learning Environment: Environment that seeks to provide support to teachers, managers and student in planning, construction and execution of educational activities, as for the insertion and make available educational materials.

Virtual Worlds: Are tools that simulate the real world in a three-dimensional environment, providing users the sense of immersion in a controlled environment with many opportunities and experiences.

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