National University of Singapore (SINGAPORE)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 3028-3036
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
Engaging students to learn computing hardware and software knowledge is often challenging to educators in Higher Education in the age of our culture affluence in technological advancements with emerging new media. Demands for a suitable virtual learning environment (VLE) which is highly interactive yet sufficiently empowering users the control and liberty of their learning activities became a crucial factor in implementing a curriculum that can adopt the appropriate pedagogy for learning and best practices in our age of technology-savvy students.

The School of Computing in the National University of Singapore (NUS) offers an undergraduate academic module, “Introduction to Computing”, eligible to all non-computing students in the other faculties as a general elective. The module seeks to impart fundamental levels of computing knowledge and skills, offered as a non-major academic fulfillment in the undergraduate graduation requirements. As the module is made up of a mixture of students from all faculties with no required level of pre-requisites in computing experience, it naturally challenged the lecturers to ensure the students stay engaged with their teachings when imparting specific computing knowledge like hardware fundamentals and its information technology (IT).

The educators brainstormed their ideas with us and customized the design of the curriculum by using a suitable VLE like Second Life, which was relevant to the teaching contents and pedagogically suitable for the programme's learning. Students, in their avatars, will first be required to access and explore the 3D computing hardware knowledge resources available at the cross-section simulation of the 3-Dimensional (3D) gigantic-sized computer simulation on the Dell island within Second Life, before returning to the NUS virtual campus to complete their inworld assessment. Upon their return to NUS island, students will be required to first go through a highly interactive computing labyrinth that has been specially customized and designed to weave computing contents experienced from their earlier Dell island experience and their real life lecture contents. In the labyrinth, students will encounter questions asked from their previous learning experiences and be required to choose their answers which in turn corresponds to their avatar directions with an alphabet tagged to the chosen answers within the maze. At the end of the labyrinth, the students will individually submit their collective alphabets in the assessment via an inworld dedicated chat channel, which has been scripted to capture their answers to be tabulated according to their avatar names with real life names, used for grading by the lecturers.

How has this transformational process of experiential learning in a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) like Second Life impacted the learning experience of the students? Were the students more engaged or shown stimulated interests in learning as compared to their typical real life lessons? This paper will present its investigations, teaching experiences, pedagogical implementations and significant observations of the learning reactions, benefits and limitations that this inworld experience in learning fundamentals of computing has engaged and impacted the undergraduate students’ learning progress in their academic module in the university.
Second life, virtual learning environment, computing, higher learning, undergraduate, experiential learning.