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Reviewing future practice in virtual worlds

Page history last edited by Gary Motteram 7 years ago

Reviewing current and future practice in the use of virtual worlds in Higher Education


This event was run at the University of Manchester on 14 March 2014 and consisted of a number of sessions conducted in the the venue at Manchester and online both in Adobe Connect and in 2nd Life. The event explored how people are currently using virtual worlds in teaching and learning in higher education, but also considered the way forward, as well.


Paul Rudman (University of Leicester)

Seven reasons for teaching in virtual worlds


The last decade has seen virtual worlds transform from novelty to powerful tool. In education, learning environments have been created with this technology in subjects as diverse as genetics, midwifery, sculpture, language learning and occupational psychology. In the US, major corporations have used virtual worlds for staff training and collaboration, as have the US army.


This talk will describe six generic ways in which virtual worlds can offer a better learning environment than the physical world. Examples will be drawn from the speaker’s extensive experience using virtual worlds, and in particular the SWIFT virtual genetics labs.


The talk will conclude by discussing the seventh reason for teaching in a virtual world – the future. A vision will be presented for the development of virtual worlds, and how the six existing reasons will be amplified as technology and teaching practice moves forward.



Darren Mundy and Luisa Panichi (University of Hull)


Over the duration of 2013-14 the Good Practice framework produced as a part of the Euroversity network has been evaluated across pan-European academic contexts.  This talk will concentrate on some of the findings from this process detailing a reflection on how the framework has informed the design and construction of these courses and how in the case of the University of Hull's course delivery the framework informed practice. This will be coupled with providing an indication of how the framework needs to be improved through further collaborative development picking up on aspects of the framework which were missing as various course provision options were explored. As one of the aspects of the framework that could be improved, Luisa Panichi will talk principally about learner participation in virtual world contexts, tracking the development of the concept through to recent findings from her research work in the area.


Maggi Savin-Baden (University of Coventry)

The impact of virtual world learning on Higher Education


Most research to date has been undertaken into students' experiences of virtual learning environments, discussion forums and perspectives about what and how online learning has been implemented. Virtual world learning seems to offer opportunities to move away from scaffolding and introduce new perspectives relating to the study of the socio-political impact of learning in higher education. This is because immersive learning spaces such as Second Life are universal, not bounded by time or geography, and in particular adopt different learning values from other learning spaces. However, there remain a number of dilemmas over the pedagogical use of Second Life as exemplified across both the e-learning community and the wider educational community. It has been widely acknowledged that virtual worlds do present educational potential in terms of role-playing, building and scripting items and fostering dialogic learning and social interaction (Savin-Baden, 2010). Despite many cogent arguments and the varied possibilities for their use there has been relatively little pedagogical rationale put forward to support these. Furthermore it would seem, that attention has been centred on the relationship between the pedagogy and the technology rather than the multiple perspectives that individuals bring to the learning encounter based upon prior experience, knowledge, and the influence of culture and worldview.


This presentation will explore some of the central issues that have emerged from recent research into pedagogical uses, impacts and innovation in virtual worlds. In particular it will present research relating to perceived impact of spatial practice in Second Life and staff experiences of learning and teaching in immersive worlds. It will also draw on recent work on learning context, staff pedagogical stances as well as the particular approaches used to facilitate effective learning in virtual worlds. The presentation will conclude by suggesting that the opportunity to do things differently when designing for disciplinary learning within these new environments, in which there is less order than in traditional learning environments, forces a reconsideration of how learning spaces should-might be constituted.


Liz Falconer (University of West England)

Learning in virtual environments: dimensions of situated learning


The presentation will discuss examples of contextual and situated learning in virtual environments, covering subject areas that include financial auditing, environmental health, psychology and forensic science. Our understanding of the nature of situated learning will be developed through results of evaluations of these examples, with particular emphasis on the authenticity and social dimensions of this kind of learning.  Aspects of learning through simulations in virtual environments that relate to situated learning include visualisation, sense of reality, sense of presence and co-presence, methods of communication, authority, engagement, generalizability and the opportunity to learn from mistakes. These aspects will be discussed and expanded in the presentation.




Virtual session – Euroversity Network Project partners

In this session Christel Schneider introduced the CAMELOT project on the use of machinima in education



Final discussion

Gary Motteram of Manchester University leads a discussion that connects Manchester with colleagues in Second Life








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