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Collaborative virtual learning environments: design and evaluation

Collaborative virtual learning environments: design and evaluation. A. Konstantidinis ,Th. Tsiatsos A. Pomportsis Computer Science Department, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece. Introduction:

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Collaborative virtual learning environments: design and evaluation

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  1. Collaborative virtual learning environments:design and evaluation A. Konstantidinis ,Th. Tsiatsos A. Pomportsis Computer Science Department, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

  2. Introduction: • Collaborative Learning (CL) is educational practices based on the simultaneous cognitive and mental effort of multiple students or/and educators. • Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE) is a computer-based, distributed, virtual space or set of places. • Collaborative virtual learning environments(CVLE)is a specific category of CVEs that aim to support Collaborative learning.

  3. Two step selection process: • First step- presents and compares three dimensional multiuser virtual environments for supporting collaborative learning. • Second step- validates the most promising solution against a set of design principles for educational virtual environments.

  4. First step: Pre-selection of CVE platform a) The appropriate means for dialogue and action: • This includes tools like text chat, e-mail, forum, video conference, voice chat. • It can also support other tools like text processors, shared web browsers. b) The functions for workspace awareness: • Workspace awareness is knowledge about others’ interaction with a shared workspace. • Users interact with the virtual world and its inhabitants through an avatar. • Action key allows the user access to the common workspace.

  5. c) The functions for supporting students’ self-regulation or guidance: • It guides students reasoning on a metacognitive level. • It requires to have virtual desk or work space. d) The facilities related to teachers’ assistance: • Useful tools embedded are : i)Activity replay ii)Log files e) The functions related to community level management: • They provide significant tools and functions for the management of the activities. • Tools supported are file sharing, forum and voting system.

  6. Croquet Platform • Croquet has cross platform capabilities and is also an open source software application. • Croquet is the only one to feature portals which link virtual worlds together. • It allows users to share files and applications, browse the web, communicate through text, VoIP or video. • It grants designers the freedom of creating user interfaces, simulations environments enhancing Croquet user functionality. • It’s virtual machine framework guarantees a simple and quick installation on any operating system.

  7. Second step: Theoretical validation of Croquet’s potential to support collaborative e-learning scenarios. • Principle 1 - Design to support multiple collaborative learning scenarios. • Principle 2 - Design to maximize the flexibility within virtual space. • Principle 3 - Augmenting user’s representation and awareness. • Principle 4 - Design to reduce the amount of extraneous load of the users.

  8. Principle 5 - Design a media-learning centric virtual space. • Principle 6 - Ergonomic design of a virtual place accessible by a large audience. • Principle 7 - Design an inclusive, open and user-centered virtual place. • Principle 8 - Design a place for many people with different roles.

  9. Design of collaborative e-learning with Croquet • 1) Virtual environment architecture • It consists of two virtual spaces: • a) Lecture room(meeting room) • b) Collaboration room(students meet and collaborate) • Portal that enables travelling between above virtual spaces.

  10. Communication with users both inside and outside of the virtual environment is achieved using chat tool. • The user interface consists of a menu bar, to create a new virtual space, three dimensional shapes such as cubes, spheres etc.

  11. 2) Technical implementation • Croquet is combination of 3D virtual models and Squeak programming. • Current version is Croquet SDK.

  12. Evaluation of the Croquet Collaborative E-learning Environment : Case Studies • Case study 1 : First evaluation by postgraduate students • Participation of 12 postgraduate students(3 male,9 female). • Students were given small presentation on the platform and its functionality. • Results: • The chat tool was used extensively and conveniently. • Difficulty with regard to navigation and orientation was seen. • Difficulty in identifying the user that was chatting.

  13. Case Study 2 : Second evaluation by postgraduate students • Participation of 14 postgraduate students(7 male,7 female). • Due to inclusion of familiarization phase navigation difficulties • were kept to minimum. • Results: • a) Questionnaires revealed Croquet lacks user friendliness. • b) Users were mostly satisfied with the use of portals connecting room and changing camera view point. • c) Most users preferred the use of VoIP for communication. • d) Regarding collaboration less technical difficulties and more stability was seen. • e) Users found it enjoyable and was satisfied by the use of 3D graphics.

  14. Case study 3 : Evaluation by undergraduate students • Participation of 24 postgraduate students(11 male,13 female) split • into two groups of twelve. • The evaluation is comprised of three phases spread across three days • a) Pre-analysis phase(includes pre-test session). • b) Usability phase which includes of two sessions • 1. Familiarization session • 2. Co-presence session • c) Learning phase(includes learning scenario-bases section). • Result: • a) User agreed about the technical difficulties hindered the scenario process. • b) Despite of this, users still favored the platform. • c) Few suggested improvements were, ability to modify avatar’s appearance, addition of voting tools, recording tools and file sharing capabilities.

  15. Discussion of the evaluation results • Majority of the students encouraged this novel approach. • Small percentage of students were not convinced regarding using this platform. • Preference for VoIP versus text communication. • Difficulty regarding navigation. • New generation learners could adopt and use 3D based system more readily. • Postgraduate students judged CVLE more positively than Undergraduate students.

  16. Conclusion • Disappointment in Croquet platform concerning its use for collaboration. • Platform was considered by most students inspiring and entertaining. • By overcoming the technical difficulties , users believed that the educational process could be revitalized using such novel technology. • CVE selection process should be improved for platform’s long term viability. Future work • Continuing assessment and enhancement of the effectiveness of the methodology. • Evaluation of the framework based on the current state of the art. • Ongoing research regarding Second life platform in supporting computer supported collaborative learning scenarios.

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