WHEN CREATIVITY MEETS EDUCATION ON 3D VIRTUAL RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES PARK
The virtual worlds could contribute to the development of a high quality learning experience for students. These are usually used in the distance learning process, which appears today to be a welcome solution, able to increase the competencies of the people, who are professionally active. In this paper is presented a case study into renewable energy, implemented in Avares’ project platform, which could lead to a better understanding of positive aspects of working in a virtual environment. The renewable technologies can be very different and difficult to compare and evaluate. All of them produce electricity from natural, renewable sources and each is expected to make some contribution to future power supplies. The teaching methodology used in Avares’ project (AVARES- “Enhance Attractiveness of renewable energy training by virtual reality”, LdV project no: 2012-1-GR1-LEO05-10057) platform is very well suited, multimedia product being able to combine a text interpretation with animations, videos, audios, schemes, graphics and testing objects. The Virtual Learning Environment, presented in the article, was implemented as a classical Moodle instance and it was used to register users, to assign new courses, to set up assignments, to organize the classes and to implement communication among students and professors. This Environment is written in different languages (Greek, Romanian, Slovak and English) and for each language there are six courses: General, Solar Energy, Water Energy, Wind Energy, Biomass Energy and Geothermal Energy. The Virtual World consists of six islands, which are experimental spaces where students can study the renewable energy sources. The main island serves as the entrance area of a user into the world and it is the place, where we can find the main auditorium, the main meeting room and the library. Each of the five islands is dedicated to teach a specific course – on Solar, Biomass, Wind, Water and Geothermal Energies. The islands have different surfaces and format, in order to reflect the course subject and to provide a specific route to be followed by students. Throughout each route at left and right hand side there are display boards showing different learning materials (presentations and animations) related to different concepts of the corresponding course. Learning materials are retrieved from the Google docs storage or were been created specifically for this course. Along each route there are 3D objects, which represent devices or processes in a realistic way and which can provide a better and deeper understanding of the functioning of the various technical devices. 3D World has been implemented (or simulated) in OpenSim, an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server. Users are represented in the 3D World as avatars - virtual agents that can move within the world, look at displays and 3D objects, relate with interactive materials, answer to quizzes, etc. The authors propose alternative methods to encourage learners to experience and to understand the value of collaborative learning by creating highly motivating study group experiences. They combine in an ingenious and very efficient manner the traditional Virtual Learning Environment and 3D Virtual World providing a new and useful support for teaching activity in Renewable Energy Source domain.