An evaluation of user support strategies for managed learning in a multi user virtual environment
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The management of online learning environments so that they are effective and efficient presents a significant challenge for institutions and lecturers due to the complexity of requirements in the learning and teaching domain. The use of 3D Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) for education introduces a novel set of management challenges. MUVEs were designed to cater for entertainment and commercial needs and as such do not intrinsically support managed learning. When MUVEs are used for educational purposes, forming 3D Multi User Learning Environments (MULEs), user support for learning management becomes an important factor. This thesis highlights the importance of managed learning in MULEs. It proposes a coordinated approach which accommodates the existing education institutional infrastructure. The research has focused on two very widely used and closely compatible MUVEs, Second Life (SL) and OpenSim. The thesis presents system and user studies that have been carried out on these selected MUVEs. The findings reveal the challenges that academics and students can experience if they do not have sufficient knowhow to manage learning activities in SL/OpenSim. User guidance and training tools were then developed for supporting learning management strategies in the context of SL/OpenSim and demonstrated in exemplar use-case scenarios. The user support models and tools which were developed have been extensively evaluated for their usability and educational value using diverse participant groups. The results validate the efficacy of these contributions, defending the research thesis. These contributions can be used in future research on managing MUVE supported education.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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