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Added values of virtual worlds

Page history last edited by k.jauregi@uu.nl 9 years, 7 months ago

Second Life® is a huge global meeting place 
Almost every real world community has its community in Second Life or other virtual worlds. Whatever you want to learn you can find experts in-world. Whatever you want to do you will find people with shared interests. Second Life® (SL) has an in-built search engine which makes it easy to find places. The SL destination webpage  provides a great selection of different destinations for all tastes. 


There are many more featured destinations to be found on this page which are regularly updated.



Virtual worlds provide an alternative learning environment

Classroom settings are newly defined. They can be adopted to any learning situation depending on what feels right in which situation. 

Learners as well as teachers have to adapt to this new learning environment.  Therefore designers often start with a familiar set up of a classroom or conference room. 






However, there are numerous fantastic spaces to learn in unusual environments like the sculpture garden or the sonic language garden. 

group work that takes place up in the air. 





I don’t think there is a straightforward answer to what is a perfect design as people have different learning styles. However, it is essential to create a motivating learning atmosphere, where students can learn collaboratively and interact. For both worlds it is important to find the most effective learning tool. However, there are more opportunities and samples of good practice regarding scenario or problem based learning in virtual worlds, enabling students to experiment in laboratories and other simulations which cannot be supplied in real life in such an efficient way. The virtual island for biology education (Chatnoir, M. 2008) [1], is a good example for such effective student centred learning. [2]


VIBE Virtual Island for Biology Education Floating in the Eukaryotic Cell Model


Emotional, psychological & social Impact

3D worlds often create an emotional and social impact more than this is experienced in 2D conferencing systems. The brain does not make any difference between experiences in virtual worlds and in the physical world. You get upset by something that has been said or you are afraid of a spider kreeping over you shoulder in-world or you accidently bump into another avatar and naturally say 'sorry'.



The experience might be virtual, but the emotion is real. Another phenomenon in virtual learning is that students feel less inhibited when learning a language for example. The feel protected by their avatar as it is not them who make the mistakes, it is their avatar. 

Virtual worlds are ideal for language learning as students can practice the four skills reading, writing, listening and speaking almost simultanuously whereas this is not possible in the real life classroom. 

Another important issue is that learners are not exposed to other students laughing about a mistake that has been made, pointing or staring at a person who made a mistake. It is also easier to hide and disappear if someone feels uncomfortable. S/he can always blame technical issues.



New alternative identity

Who am I? 

Some people keep changing their looks, others don't. Appearance seems to become part of the new identity, often totally different from the real world, sometimes it is just the same. It is easy to hide behind your avatar (suggestopedia). The question is: what should be different and how do I want to be seen by others.  



O'Driscoll, T. (2010) [3]states that you become your avatar over time and associate and feel with it. This might not apply to all, however, there are occasions, where distinctions between virtual and physical reality become blurred. According to Sant, T. ( 2009) [4] do all avatars have the potential to represent their real life self in virtual worlds.  


Collaborative working environment


In 3D worlds, you can do more than in a 2D classroom or conference solution: You can create something together: videos, comic books, exhibitions, buildings, puzzles, play games like scrabble or get involved in a competition to build a tree-house, or walk along a small bridge without falling into the water and much more. 

Virtual worlds provide the opportunity to work project based. They foster participants' involvement and teambuilding, and combine language learning with real interest. They create real value and the learners are very proud of their products and results. 


< Platzhalter > machinima klönschnack or buying and selling



Real world simulations

There are a lot of resources for simulations which would be fatal when carried out in real life, like accidents, surgeries for medical students, life rescue on an air plane, a gas explosion in a factory, giving birth, a fire breaking out on an oil-rig, a hurrican simulation and many more opportunities. There are also training sessions in SL on what to do in an emergency or how can a visitor to Italy survive in SL, practice in ship navigation to train for a sailing licence, just to name a few


                A tornado simulation

An accident on an air plane



The imagination is the limit


An educator's dream comes true. Any educational environment we can think of can be set up. There are no physical limits and almost no financial limits. In virtual worlds almost everything is possible (Johnson, L. F et al.,2008). [5] Learning environments can quickly be changed at any time, whereas such changes would involve a lot of extra effort and costs in RL. 


< videos to be inserted or linked to:  - sculpture garden> sonic language garden, the haunted hotel, > pictures and videos - butterfly dreams


Virtual ability 

Elderly people or those who are physically impaired and cannot go to places and are bound to stay in their home could benefit from visiting virtual worlds. In virtual worlds the avatar does not show – unless people wish to do so - age or impairments. A 90 second promotional video for getting people into Second Life was created for this specific target group. 'It's never too late to start something new'



Some people use wheelchairs in SL just like in the physical world, whereas others prefer not to reveal their disability and take part in ballroom dances in-world, which O’Driscoll, T. (2007) [6] refers to as “Enrichment of Experience”.

Some deaf users were horrified, about the arrival of voice feature in SL as this excluded them from conversations with others and made them feel less ‘normal’ ( Carr, D. {2011). [7] However there are many communities or organisations in SL that communicate in text chat only, like for example most of the role play sims. 

As regards to ability, it is remarkable how disabled people in virtual worlds help abled people to cope, like a deaf person instructs how to use the Text Hud and much more.  


Influences from the virtual world to the physical world


An impressive example how the avatar can influence a person’s brain and functions in real life is 86-year old Fran Seranade, suffering from Parkinson’s condition, who created a young looking avatar resembling herself in her youth (The Drax Files 2013). Being able to do everything in-world like dancing, diving, horseback riding, boating encouraged her in real life to move her muscles and even walk to the car which she had not been able to do without help for years. Seranade claims that Second Life gave her emotional experience back (The Drax Files 2013) [8].

“The avatar represents who I really feel inside. I know my avatar can do this and I know, I can, too."


Sheehy, P. (2010) [9] emphasises also the positive effects VWs have on learning. Her students feel more confident as regards to making mistakes, because it is their avatar who makes the mistake not them. The lack of facial expressions and body movements in VWs help students feel less embarrassed as they can hide behind their avatar’s identity. Sheehy, P. (2013) identifies three levels of identity:

“Real: Who you actually are in your real life
Virtual: Your avatar identity ( the role you play)
Projective: The real is the virtual. The self we bring to our avatar”





[1] Chatnoir, M. ( 2013) Crick on the VIBE Hypergrid [online] . 27 July. Available from: http://wiki.bio-se.info/doku.php?id=people:max_chatnoir [ Accessed 28 December 2013 ]


[2] Christel Schneider 2014, Orientation in Virtual Worlds - MA Education in Virtual Worlds 2013/14, University of the West of England


[3] O'Driscoll, T. (2010) InstructionalDudes. The 7 Sensibilities of 3D Virtual Worlds.YouTube [video] 12 August. Available from: http://youtu.be/M3amL-BXZRk [Accessed 30 November 2013]


Johnson, L.F. and Levine, A.H. (2008) Virtual Worlds: Inherently Immersive, Highly Social Learning Spaces [online] in: Theory Into Practice, 47:161–170. The Ohio State University ISSN: 0040-5841 print/1543-0421 [online] DOI: 10.1080/00405840801992397 Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, p. 164. 


[8]Screenshots of Fran Seranade, in: Draxter Depres (2013) The Drax Files: World Makers [ Episode 13: Creations for Parkinson’s] YouTube[video] 01 November. Available from: http://youtu.be/nyiiWxNguGo [Accessed 02 November 2013]


[9] Knowclue, K.(2010) Peggy Sheehy on Exploring Identity.YouTube [video]. 24 June. Available from: http://youtu.be/Xb94N0uINSI [ Accessed 03 January 2014]

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