Universidad a Distancia de Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 2229-2238
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The Madrid Open University, i.e. Universidad a Distancia de Madrid (UDIMA), is a joint venture enterprise and a graduate education institution that offers exclusive on-line education. On one hand, this fact allows students to learn without being attached to a specific location. On the other hand, this kind of education usually makes students work individually, without developing collaborative skills. In order to overcome this drawback, this paper encourages instructors to design collaborative activities in on-line education by using 3D virtual environments. In particular, these environments usually facilitate the immersion of students in a virtual word where they can collaborate. Thus, UDIMA has designed a virtual campus, which is publically available by searching UDIMA in the Second Life (SL) environment. First at all, it is composed by several buildings: classrooms, reception, secretariat, cafeteria, etc. In addition, instructors can apply different configurations to classrooms (e.g. round tables, judgment distribution and desk tables).
This paper is concerned on a technique for designing collaborative learning activities within 3D environments. The first phase is to classify students into working groups. Inside groups, the work of students is divided in four roles: head, technical member, evaluator, and client. In this way, each group has one student playing the head role and several students can play the other roles. Additionally, the instructor can play the client role. At the beginning, the client presents to each group a problem with certain requirements and students work together in groups for obtaining a solution. Afterwards, the head proposes a design for performing the work, and its distribution amongst the technical members. Each one must perform their work and can make suggestions for improving the global work. Finally, the evaluators assess the work and guarantee that it satisfies the requirements. Once a requirement is not satisfied, evaluators mention it and the head plans the necessary modifications. Moreover, it is important to distinguish the roles graphically, for instance using different cloths for them (e.g. t-shirts of different colors) and/or placing students in different stages in the classroom (e.g. to place head and technical members in chairs and evaluators next to tables).
This technique has been applied to two learning activities in different contexts at UDIMA. The first activity was designed for teaching the design phase of software engineering processes, in Computer Science grade. In this activity, students collaboratively propose class diagrams of object-oriented applications, which were iteratively improved considering new requirements. The goal of second activity is that students of Criminology grade can learn some structures of knowledge management in a pleasant way.
It is remarkable that a survey of 13 questions was developed to evaluate this technique. This survey covered questions about student experiences and it used Likert scale from 1 to 5 (1 is strongly disagree and 5 is strongly agree). To sum up, overall 60 students were surveyed and their responses revealed that they learned the concepts better with the activities designed with the technique than with other activities (on average 3.6 out of 5). Furthermore, they also enjoyed more this type of activities than other activities (on average 3.9), and they agree on requesting instructors to repeat this kind of activities (on average 4.2).
Online education, immersive environments, virtual 3D environments, Second Life, e-learning, software engineering, criminology.