The seamless integration of Web3D technologies with university curricula to engage the changing student cohort

Albion, Peter and McKeown, Lindy (2010) The seamless integration of Web3D technologies with university curricula to engage the changing student cohort. Project Report. Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Sydney, Australia.

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Abstract

The increasing tendency of many university students to study at least some courses at a distance limits their opportunities for the interactions fundamental to learning. Online learning can assist but relies heavily on text, which is limiting for some students. The popularity of computer games, especially among the younger students, and the emergence of networked games and game-like virtual worlds offers opportunities for enhanced interaction in educational applications. For virtual worlds to be widely adopted in higher education it is desirable to have approaches to design and development that are responsive to needs and limited in their resource requirements. Ideally it should be possible for academics without technical expertise to adapt virtual worlds to support their teaching needs. This project identified Web3D, a technology that is based on the X3D standards and which presents 3D virtual worlds within common web browsers, as an approach worth exploring for educational application. The broad goals of the project were to produce exemplars of Web3D for educational use, together with development tools and associated resources to support non-technical academic adopters, and to promote an Australian community of practice to support broader adoption of Web3D in education. During the first year of the project exemplar applications were developed and tested. The Web3D technology was found to be still in a relatively early stage of development in which the application of standards did not ensure reliable operation in different environments. Moreover, ab initio development of virtual worlds and associated tools proved to be more demanding of resources than anticipated and was judged unlikely in the near future to result in systems that non-technical academics could use with confidence. In the second year the emphasis moved to assisting academics to plan and implement teaching in existing virtual worlds that provided relatively easy to use tools for customizing an environment. A project officer worked with participating academics to support the teaching of significant elements of courses within Second LifeTM. This approach was more successful in producing examples of good practice that could be shared with and emulated by other academics. Trials were also conducted with ExitRealityTM, a new Australian technology that presents virtual worlds in a web browser. Critical factors in the success of the project included providing secure access to networked computers with the necessary capability; negotiating the complexity of working across education, design of virtual worlds, and technical requirements; and supporting participants with professional development in the technology and appropriate pedagogy for the new environments. Major challenges encountered included working with experimental technologies that are evolving rapidly and deploying new networked applications on secure university networks. The project has prepared the way for future expansion in the use of virtual worlds for teaching at USQ and has contributed to the emergence of a national network of tertiary educators interested in the educational applications of virtual worlds.


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Item Type: Report (Project Report)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: This work is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Australia Licence. Under this Licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work and to make derivative works.
Depositing User: Assoc Prof Peter Albion
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Education
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2010 06:26
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2014 03:20
Uncontrolled Keywords: virtual world, Web3D
Fields of Research (FOR2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930203 Teaching and Instruction Technologies
Identification Number or DOI: CG7-488
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/7153

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