Elearn: Towards a Collaborative Educational Virtual Environment
Anna Michailidou, Anastasios A. Economides, University of Macedonia, Greece
JITE-Research Volume 2, Number 1, ISSN 1539-3585 Publisher: Informing Science Institute
The evolving growth in networking and telecommunication technologies leads to their enhanced usage in many and different aspects of human activity. One of the technologies that shows great interest is Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs), which may be used in various applications, such as tele-education. This paper presents, analyzes and evaluates the basic elements of Elearn, a Collaborative Virtual Learning Environment (CVLE) that has been created for teaching electronic commerce. In Elearn, the virtual world, the web pages and the synchronous chat among the participants are integrated into the same environment. A user is represented as an avatar who can move, make gestures with its hands and head, bump into objects, pass through them, etc. A detailed list of navigation directions is provided in order to help the user to move freely into the environment. The possibility of many users to coexist in Elearn is also supported. Collaboration and cooperation are its two components that enhance the learning effectiveness. Collaboration is supported among students and teachers with the use of synchronous chat. The chat window appears on the screen along with the virtual world and the web pages, motivating the participants to use it. Asynchronous communication is also supported, via email and discussion board. The evaluation of a CVLE is an important and difficult task. Pedagogical issues, like conceptual learning, collaboration, constructivism and adaptability, should be taken under serious consideration. These parameters are crucial in achieving strong learning effectiveness. An evaluation table has been developed which includes all the important parameters concerning a CVLE. The evaluation is performed at four levels: 1) the pedagogical - psychological level, 2) the technical - functional level, 3) the organizational -economical level, and 4) the social - cultural level. Elearn was used in an experiment supplementing traditional teaching. The students’ participation was satisfactory, since they demonstrated great interest in exploring Elearn and using the synchronous chat capability. The basic pedagogical issues, like constructivism and collaboration, were fulfilled, but greater effort is needed towards the development of the lessons’ content and exams. Students and teachers communicated via synchronous chat and email, as well as using the teacher’s bot (an avatar that inhabits the virtual world and interacts with users). A lot of time was invested in developing and managing Elearn. Despite all the difficulties, we believe that the new methods of teaching, using CVLEs and innovative pedagogical approaches, enhance the traditional teaching methods and improve the student participation.
Michailidou, A. & Economides, A.A. (2003). Elearn: Towards a Collaborative Educational Virtual Environment. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 2(1), 131-152. Informing Science Institute.
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