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Previous attempts to quantify immersion have been pursued within the context of game virtual worlds where there is a clear outline of a goal. This paper seeks to investigate the problem of immersion measurement in an online based virtual world (ReactionGrid) where there is no distinct in-world goal and environmental context is less immersive as in a game environment. The experiment investigates participants’ feelings towards their immersion experience while being in a virtual world. Our findings suggest that immersion mostly depends on co-presence and communication of users.
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Immersion in Virtual Worlds - but not Second Life!
Aslan Kanamgotov, Athanasios Christopoulos, Marc Conrad, Simant Prakoonwit
Department of Computer Science and Technology
University of Bedfordshire
Luton, UK.
{aslan.kanamgotov; athanasios.christopoulos; marc.conrad; simant.prakoonwit}@beds.ac.uk
AbstractPrevious attempts to quantify immersion have been
pursued within the context of game virtual worlds where there
is a clear outline of a goal. This paper seeks to investigate the
problem of immersion measurement in an online based virtual
world (ReactionGrid) where there is no distinct in-world goal
and environmental context is less immersive as in a game
environment. The experiment investigates participants’
feelings towards their immersion experience while being in a
virtual world. Our findings suggest that immersion mostly
depends on co-presence and communication of users.
Keywords- immersion; virtual reality; reactiongrid; second
life; in-world (key-words)
I. INTRODUCTION
In recent years virtual environments have become a more
and more prominent part of the educator‟s „toolbox‟ to
design and implement student activities. While in the context
of (recreational) games immersion is an important factor the
situation concerning educational activities is less clear and
we might question if and how immersion happens when
users in this case students at a university work in a virtual
environment to perform a task given to them as part of an
assignment. Indeed it was claimed in [1] that the lack of in-
world population and other context might lead to a lack of
immersion experienced by the users of this virtual world.
This paper aims to underpin this theoretical assumption with
the means of a structured questionnaire administered to
students.
Quantifying immersion is far from straightforward.
Previous attempts (e.g. [2], [3], [4]) have been performed in
a game virtual world environment. However within games
following the goal is essential. In our study we aim to
quantify immersion in a non-game virtual world, where the
user is free in making decisions what to do and where to go
at any given time. Nevertheless a general task is assigned to
the user from the „outside‟ in so far that the virtual world
task is set within a university assignment (see section V).
Based on our results we are going to demonstrate that there
is a clear difference between game based and non-game
based immersion experience.
Some scholars (e.g. [5]) insist on the difference between
these definitions: “immersion” “presence” and “flow”.
However, the specific evaluation of the differences in this
terminology lies beyond the scope of our research. The term
“immersion” as “the sense of being there” or “Zen-like state
where your hands just seem to know what to do, and your
mind just seems to carry on with the story” [6] will be used
throughout this paper.
The main contribution of this paper is to measure
immersion in non-game oriented virtual environment where
unlike in games, the goal is not clearly defined and the user
is more or less free in his or her decisions. In doing so, we
verify a hypothesis made in [1] that predicted this outcome
based on theoretical reasoning. In addition we identify
„underpopulation‟ as a contributing cause for the apparent
absence of immersive experience. This constitutes a problem
in particular where worlds are hosted on dedicated servers,
isolated from the context of other worlds.
The paper is structured as follows. First we provide a
general overview of immersion and contextualize it within
existing work, in general terms in Section II and more
specific in view of the educational context in Section III.
Section IV presents the theoretical underpinning from which
our hypothesis of the paper is derived. In Section V we
discuss the specific situation in which the study has been
conducted. Section VI presents the methodology of data
collection and the questions put forward to the participants.
Results are summarized in Section VII and discussed in
Section VIII. Section IX concludes the paper.
II. IMMERSION OVERVIEW
According to Onyesolu [7] under certain circumstances,
virtual worlds have the potential to become immersive and
engaging. Bredl et al. [8] agree with [7] and note that in
virtual worlds users are able to feel immersed, develop the
sense that they are part of the virtual world and that they
interact directly with the virtual context of the world. In [9]
immersion is defined as the users‟ sense of belonging in a
virtual world. In [8] Bredl et al. indicate that immersion
occurs when, in a given period of time, users interact more
with the context of a virtual world than with the real world.
Similarly, in [10] immersion is defined as the phenomenon
during which “one has left the real world and is now
„present‟ in the virtual environment” or, more simply, a
phenomenon during which the users of a virtual world focus
their senses on stimuli received from the virtual world and
ignore completely or partially the stimuli received from the
real world.
Childs [11] seems to agree with Onyesolu [7] and Bredl
et al. [8] that immersion is not an intrinsic feature of virtual
worlds but one potential characteristic of them. He notes that
some users never experience immersion in the virtual worlds,
others evolve into partially immersed users, while others get
to the point of feeling absolute presence in a virtual world.
Nevertheless, he stresses that just using a virtual world is not
enough for immersion to be achieved; a number of
conditions is essential to be met.
In the relevant bibliography, four factors that influence
whether and to what extend users of virtual worlds will
experience immersion were identified. These were:
1. Users‟ willingness to be engaged and immersed
2. The use of avatars
3. The coexistence of users and their interaction with
others in the context of virtual worlds
4. The technical characteristics and the context of the
virtual worlds.
Childs [11] and Bredl et al. [8] rank users‟ willingness
and ability to become part of a virtual world, to be immersed
and engaged, among the top factors influencing immersion.
Childs [11] emphasizes that, regardless of the characteristics
of a world, its plausibility, its vividness, and its interactivity,
whether and to what extend users will experience immersion
within its context depends on them, since all the features
mentioned cannot be assessed absolutely objectively.
Instead, users judge virtual worlds subjectively, from their
perspective, according to their own needs and influenced by
their own unique psychological and mental processes, which
ultimately are the ones that lead them or not to a certain level
of immersion within the virtual world.
The use of avatars in virtual worlds, like Second Life and
OpenSim, has a positive effect on the users‟ development of
the sense of presence according to researchers‟ opinion. This
view is supported by Bredl et al. [8] who, in fact, emphasize
the positive impact that the use of avatars has on educational
processes. Meanwhile, De Freitas et al. [12] refer specifically
to the sense of presence users develop because of the
opportunity they have to directly handle their avatars and,
through them, the content of the virtual worlds. Levesque &
Lelievre [13] add that, through the use of avatars, users
distance themselves from what is taking place in the virtual
world and believe that the avatars, and not themselves, act in
the world. It is this conviction that results in increased levels
of immersion on the part of the users. Kay Michel et al. [14]
from their point of view, refer not only to the use of avatars
but especially to the use of avatars that users themselves
have altered and shaped, according to their individual taste
and choices, as an important element that affects their
immersion.
Some scholars, based on their research results, proceed
the formulation of their conclusions one step further and note
the effect of the sense of co-presence on the development of
the sense of presence. Vosinakis et al. [15] highlight the
importance of users‟ coexistence in a "shared space" and
stress that this plays a decisive role in the engagement of
users in-world. Bredl et al. [8] emphasize that the
coexistence with others in the virtual world is more efficient
in causing immersion to develop than the individual and
independent existence of avatars. Thereby, an additional
factor which concerns the network of interactions occurring
among users is raised. Annetta et al. [10] indicate
characteristically that a virtual environment «exists» when
there are users in it, interacting with its content and with each
other; respectively, a user «exists» in a virtual environment
when interacting with other users and the world. At this
point, based on what Annetta et al. stated, the following
reflection shall be expressed parenthetically: to what extend
is this sense of immersion and actual sense of presence likely
to be cultivated within the context of a private hosted server,
like those that may be developed through the use of
OpenSim technology?
Childs [11] notes that the activation of this sense of
presence and co-presence is hindered greatly when users find
it difficult to manipulate the context of the virtual
environment and the technology of the virtual world. Of
course, the vividness and the plausibility of a virtual world
contribute positively to the users‟ engagement in the world,
as reported by Bredl et al. [8]. Even though Childs [11] does
not disagree with this view, he regards the users‟ willingness
to be immersed in the world as a more important factor in
achieving their engagement. He also considers the
technological problems and the utilitarian issues, which
characterise virtual worlds like Second Life, as obstacles to
the users‟ path towards immersion.
III. IMMERSION: NECESSITY AND FACTORS
Through the research they conducted, Bredl et al. [8]
concluded that when students are immersed in a virtual
world, they have increased motivation for learning through
this world, while they are more likely to be engaged in
educational activities. Childs [11] on the other hand, finds a
positive correlation between the development of the sense of
presence and the satisfaction felt by students during the
execution of an educational activity in-world. Combining
this statement with what was mentioned above, it can be
deduced that immersion in the virtual world is necessary if
educational activities are to be thought really pleasant for
students.
Despite the fact that the topic of immersion in virtual
worlds in general has been investigated extensively and in
detail, literature search revealed that there are few studies
focusing their interest on the immersion that develops within
the worlds of Second Life and OpenSim in particular.
Furthermore, no research was detected, directly comparing
the two worlds as to their ability to provide their users with a
sense of presence. Kostarikas et al. [16] carried out a
research on the educational use of Second Life and realized
that the students under observation developed a sense of
presence within the world, they got immersed and did not
hesitate to cooperate in-world with their unknown until
then fellow students. The same research also suggests that
lack of familiarity with the world of Second Life causes
insecurity to new users and acts as a barrier to the students‟
way towards immersion. Nonetheless, all the students who
participated in this research were satisfied with their learning
experience within Second Life and positive to the idea of
using it again in the future [16] thereby indicating that
eventually they experienced immersion inside the virtual
world.
Hockey et al. [17] emphasize that the advantages that
Second Life has, as an immersive virtual environment, are
not exclusive to this specific world. On the contrary,
immersion is a feature of any virtual world that provides
opportunities for direct visual contact with the subject taught
and interaction with the environment and other users. This
view can lead us to the conclusion that such immersive
experiences may be provided by OpenSim as well, since it
shares many common features with Second Life, concerning
its context and function. Ridgewell et al. [18] report that, the
OpenSim technology creates environment which may
accommodate engaging, playful educational activities, that
lead to the immersion of students into the world. Zhao et al.
[19] also suggest the use of OpenSim technology for the
creation of immersive virtual environments, which are
characterized by plausibility, interactivity, and ability to
engage students.
However, Childs [11] argues that the number of
simultaneously logged-in users in virtual world plays vital
role in students‟ engagement and moving virtual universities
to less populated environment decreases the probability of
immersion occurrence.
Co-presence and interaction with each other are
considered as necessary prerequisites for the achievement of
students' in-world immersion. Students reported “feeling like
in real class... and would meet my classmates even though it
was not real” [20] and moving to private hosted servers is
even viewed by some researchers as “a missed opportunity to
address some of learners‟ misconceptions and prejudices”
[11].
Indeed, in 2011 the University of Bedfordshire moved
from a Second Life based virtual environment to an
OpenSim based one (via ReactionGrid as the OpenSim
service provider). This provided an excellent opportunity to
conduct the research discussed in this paper.
IV. LEAVING THE LINDENS
A theoretical approach to evaluate virtual worlds in a
systematic way in particular focusing on alternatives to
Second Life as the market leader is taken in [1]: starting with
the two antipodes extrinsic vs. intrinsic (which denotes a
view from within the virtual world, i.e. the avatar‟s view
versus the user view from „outside‟ the world); and
individual vs. world that identifies the perspective seen by
the individual and contrasts this with the one taken by the
world the four dimensions immersion, cost, context and
persistence are implied as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Conrad’s four dimensions for Virtual World
Evaluation [1]
Intrinsic
Extrinsic
Individual
Immersion
Cost
World
Context
Persistence
The focus within this paper is on immersion, the
individual / intrinsic dimension while further investigation
on the other dimensions would have to be conducted
elsewhere.
In his paper Conrad [1] goes on to use this framework of
four dimensions to evaluate five specific alternatives to
Second Life a dedicated provider (other than Second Life),
a provider within the OSgrid, a virtual world hosted by the
institution itself, a virtual world hosted by students
themselves, or just go along without any virtual word.
Concerning immersion in particular he argues that using a
dedicated provider leads to a drop of immersion compared to
the Second Life experience. Our paper aims to investigate
this assumption further based on primary data collected in
the context of a student assignment (see next section).
Our study has been conducted with students using
ReactionGrid that has all the features of such a dedicated
provider: similar to Second Life, virtual islands can be rented
to provide land on which students can pursue their activities.
The technical handling of the virtual world provided by
ReactionGrid is indeed similar to the one of Second Life.
Structures can be built using prims, scripting, texturing etc.
and communication is possible on local chat as well as
instant messages. However, and in strong contrast to Linden
Labs and Second Life there is almost no casual or
recreational traffic of residents within ReactionGrid.
V. ASSESSMENT CONTEXT
The general theme and setup of the activities for the
students are discussed in [21] and [22] in very much detail
and therefore we only provide a short summary here: our
study took place during a 24-week final year undergraduate
course called Social and Professional Project Management.
Students were required to build an educational showcase
within ReactionGrid and to develop an artifact of their own
choice (unrelated to virtual worlds) as part of a PRINCE2®
(http://www.prince-officialsite.com/) managed project. For
details about the general setup of the assignment we refer to
[21]. The pedagogic underpinning that contextualizes the
assignment within the situated learning approach [23] is
evaluated in [22]. In moving from Second Life (where the
assignment was conducted before 2011) changes were
necessary: the absence of an in-world economy led to a
redesign of the „cost management‟ and „procurement‟
aspects of the assignment. Also students were encouraged to
look for example showcases within Second Life while
building on the ReactionGrid island.
VI. DATA COLLECTION
In order to address the research question, namely to
quantify immersion in a non-game, non-goal led virtual
world and to evaluate the findings against Conrad‟s [1]
theoretical predictions we utilise the setup described in the
previous section and administered a questionnaire to the
students of this assignment. The questionnaire is a modified
version of the questionnaire administered by Jennett et al [4].
The modifications were necessary as Jennett et al.‟s
questionnaire was targeted towards a game environment and
therefore contained too specific questions. In particular the
two How much did you want to “win” the game? or
When interrupted, were you disappointed that the game was
over? from Jennett et al.‟s questionnaire were considered to
be not applicable to the context of our experiment.
Answers were presented to participants on a Likert scale,
rating from 1(the lowest) to 5(the highest) scores. An open
question asking for any other comments was added at the
end of the questionnaire. All 29 questions were mandatory.
The questionnaire was made available online and the link
was provided to the students during their practical sessions.
After spending at least half an hour at their task, participants
were asked to complete the questionnaire. Nineteen
participants took part in this experiment, 16 males and 3
females, aged from 18 to 44 years. All students were from
the University of Bedfordshire studying Computer Science
or Engineering related courses.
The Google Docs service from Google has been used to
make the questionnaire available online and to collect the
results in a systematic way. Questions used in the experiment
are presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Questions asked within the study. Respondents
were asked to choose a value from 1 to 5 where 1 and 5
were labeled as indicated in the last two columns. The
options 2, 3 and 4 were not labeled.
Nr
Question
1
5
1
To what extent did the task hold
your attention?
Not at all
A lot
2
To what extent did you feel you
were focused on the task?
Not at all
A lot
3
How much effort did you put into
playing the task?
Very little
A lot
4
Did you feel that you were trying
you best?
Very little
Very
much so
5
To what extent did you lose track of
time?
Not at all
A lot
6
To what extent did you feel
consciously aware of being in the
real world whilst doing the task?
Not at all
Very
much so
7
To what extent did you forget about
your everyday concerns?
Not at all
A lot
8
To what extent were you aware of
yourself in your surroundings?
Not at all
Very
aware
9
To what extent did you notice
events taking place around you?
Not at all
A lot
10
Did you feel the urge at any point to
stop doing the task and see what
was happening around you?
Not at all
Very
much so
11
To what extent did you feel that you
were interacting with the Virtual
World environment?
Not at all
Very
much so
12
To what extent did you feel as
though you were separated from
your real-world environment?
Not at all
Very
much so
13
To what extent did you feel that the
task was something you were
experiencing, rather than something
you were just doing?
Not at all
Very
much so
14
To what extent was your sense of
being in Virtual World environment
stronger than your sense of being in
the real world?
Not at all
Very
much so
15
At any point did you find yourself
become so involved that you were
unaware you were even using
controls?
Not at all
Very
much so
16
To what extent did you feel as
though you were moving through
the task according to you own will?
Not at all
Very
much so
17
To what extent did you find the task
challenging?
Not at all
Very
difficult
18
Were there any times during the
task doing in which you just wanted
to give up?
Not at all
A lot
Question
1
5
To what extent did you feel
motivated while accomplishing the
task?
Not at all
A lot
To what extent did you find the task
easy?
Not at all
Very
much so
To what extent did you feel like you
were making progress towards the
end of the task?
Not at all
A lot
How well do you think you
performed in the task
accomplishing?
Very poor
Very well
To what extent did you feel
emotionally attached to the task?
Not at all
Very
much so
To what extent were you interested
in seeing how the task‟s events
would progress?
Not at all
A lot
How much did you want to
accomplish the task?
Not at all
Very
much so
Were you in suspense about
whether or not you would
successfully accomplish the task?
Not at all
Very
much so
To what extent did you enjoy the
graphics and the imagery?
Not at all
A lot
How much would you say you
enjoyed being in the Virtual World
environment?
Not at all
A lot
Would you like to do this task
again?
Definitely
not
Definitely
yes
VII. RESULTS
We received nineteen responses in total. 19 of the 29
questions did not indicate any trend towards either end of the
Likert scale, i.e. neither more than 50% scored 4 or 5, nor
more than 50% scored 1 or 2. We focus therefore first on the
10 other questions where a certain trend is visible (see Tables
3 and 4).
Table 3. The seven questions where more than 50% of
the respondents choose a value of 4 or 5 on the Likert
scale.
Nr
1-2
3
4-5
3
15.8%
31.6%
52.6%
4
26.3%
15.8%
57.9%
8
21.1%
26.3%
52.6%
11
5.3%
26.3%
68.4%
21
10.5%
21.1%
68.4%
22
15.8%
15.8%
68.4%
25
5.3%
31.6%
63.2%
The seven questions where more than half of the
respondents scored 4 or 5 could be considered as non- related
to immersion experience itself. Q3 and Q4, for instance, (see
Table 2) refer more to the efforts, put by the participants
into the task rather than their feelings of “being there”, Q21,
Q22 and Q25 predominantly indicate the progress
participants made and their desire to accomplish the task
successfully, rather the sense of immersion. Q8 can be
interpreted as an indication of self-awareness while doing the
task as opposite to a “loss of the sense of reality”. The only
exception might be Q11, showing that participants were
feeling interacting with environment. However, such an
interaction, which was a part of their assignment, does not
prove that a state of immersion is achieved. Indeed, the
process of building something itself can be viewed as a
necessary, but not enough factor to feel immersed in the
environment.
Table 4. The three questions where more than 50% of
the respondents choose a value of 1 or 2 on the Likert
scale.
Nr
1-2
3
4-5
7
57.9%
36.8%
5.3%
12
52.6%
36.8%
10.5%
15
52.6%
36.8%
10.5%
On the other hand the three questions (Q7, Q12, Q15)
where the majority of respondents scored 1 or 2, seem to
indicate that not much immersion took place while doing the
task participants were well aware of themselves and were
not driven away from their daily routines.
Table 5. Questions with balanced answers neither a
50% majority towards 1-2 or towards 4-5.
Nr
1-2
3
4-5
1
26.3%
26.3%
47.4%
2
15.8%
36.8%
47.4%
5
47.4%
31.6%
21.1%
6
15.8%
36.8%
47.4%
9
15.8%
36.8%
47.4%
10
21.1%
36.8%
42.1%
13
26.3%
47.4%
26.3%
14
42.1%
36.8%
21.1%
16
21.1%
47.4%
31.6%
17
15.8%
52.6%
31.6%
18
42.1%
15.8%
42.1%
19
26.3%
31.6%
42.1%
20
31.6%
42.1%
26.3%
23
42.1%
31.6%
26.3%
24
10.5%
42.1%
47.4%
26
36.8%
21.1%
42.1%
27
31.6%
31.6%
36.8%
28
10.5%
42.1%
47.4%
29
31.6%
26.3%
42.1%
Interestingly the results for some questions, which scored
between 40% and 50% (see Table 5) might be viewed as a
certain support of the trend discussed above. Q1 and Q2, for
instance, indicate, that participants were focused on the task,
but were they really immersed? On the other hand, Q6 and
Q9 might be interpreted as a proof, that not much immersion
was experienced by the participants. Q10 might be
interpreted in both ways either a participant is deeply
immersed and feels anxiety that calls him or her back to
reality, or the participant is not immersed at all and feels like
“looking around” instead of concentrating on the task. Q19,
Q24 and Q26 were about feelings concerning task
accomplishing success and progress which broadly falls into
the same category as the questions in Table 3.
Comments within the open question did not relate to
immersion directly but rather provided feedback to the
technicalities (such as unavailability of the server) or
relevance to the assessment for the students‟ course therefore
emphasizing the „extrinsic‟ (as defined in Section IV) view
on the virtual world and avoiding any intrinsic perspective.
VIII. DISCUSSION
As researchers argue, there are several technical factors
that affect immersion experience: vividness of the graphic,
wide field of view, surround sound, haptic feedback, etc. [5].
But one of the most important factors that lead to immersion
is the possibility to communicate with other people while
being in the virtual world [24] and see their appropriate
reaction. “I could feel the “real class” when I saw bunch of
you gathering at the outside of the ground floor. I felt that
finally I would meet all my classmates (even though it was
not real)” this is how one of participants commented his
feelings after an experiment described by Carr et al. [25]
Another important aspect which might affect immersion
is the presence of correlation between user‟s activity and
feedback from other users. For instance, when somebody
gives a talk, the visible reaction of the audience e.g. nodding,
turning heads or making gestures, brings to the speaker the
feel of true interaction with the listeners. Slater et al. [5]
describe that phenomenon as “correlational presence”.
Indeed, while in real life these little symbols of interaction
are hardly noticeable, in virtual worlds they might play a
greater role [5]. Common sense suggests that this
correlational presence depends greatly on how many people
can be potentially involved into this kind of interaction.
These two factors - communication and correlational
presence - probably play a vital role in achieving immersion
experience. The virtual worlds of the Second Life
„competitors‟ are based on the similar technology with
approximately the same degree of graphical realism and
latency. Users login from regular computers with regular 2D
monitors which are “standard” for the most home and office
hardware specifications. Indeed, as it has been observed in
[1] already the only significant difference amongst currently
existing online virtual worlds (e.g. Second life,
ReactionGrid, OSGrid) is the number of concurrently
logged-in users, or in other words the population of the in-
world.
According to [25] the number of concurrently logged in
users in Second Life is around 62500 per day (April 2012)
and ReactionGrid‟s number of active users is not getting
higher than 387 (March 2012) [26]. We could not find any
statistics of concurrently logged in users in ReactionGrid for
direct comparison however this number of “active users” is
sufficiently indicative for our purpose. Though there is no
precise definition of “active user” (and it seems like each
online resource counts this number in different way, see e.g.
[27] and [28]), we can assume that this is the number of
users who perform some activities on the web resource
within a given period of time, but not necessarily
simultaneously. This number generally should be higher than
the number of concurrently logged in users. Therefore it is
obvious that the overall population active in ReactionGrid is
significantly lower than the one engaged in Second Life
(even considering currently perceived decline of the
significance of Second Life in general).
The data collected during the course of this study
suggests that the level of immersion that can be achieved in
Second Life is significantly higher than the one of the in-
world of a dedicated provider, such as ReactionGrid. This is
further evidenced for example by a study by Conrad et al.
[29] that seems to suggest that immersion indeed took place
when a similar assignment as discussed in this paper was
conducted in 2008/9 within Second Life although it should
be noted that the focus of [29] was more on the specific
relationship between the user and their avatar and therefore
the findings of this study and our study within a dedicated
provider do not compare directly. In future research,
therefore, it would be desirable to do a systematic like-by-
like analysis for instance, asking part of the cohort to do
the task in Second Life and the other part within a dedicated
provider and then administer the questionnaire to both
groups.
IX. CONCLUSION
As evaluated in Section III and IV immersion, as a
phenomenon, as something that happens to human being and
can be described as “sense of being there”, does not occur
only due to advanced technology, that creates a convincing
in-world. There are also other factors, in particular the co-
presence of the users which leads to the possibility to
communicate with each other while being in virtual world.
Therefore, an experiment has been setup to try to bring
evidence to that theory, as described in Section VI, VII and
VIII.
The idea of the experiment was to accomplish a given
task of building a showcase in the virtual world of
ReactionGrid and to share feelings of immersion through the
questionnaire. The questionnaire has been administered to a
group of students of the Department of Computer Science
and Technology of the University of Bedfordshire, getting 19
responses in a feedback. Results somehow confirm that
theory with the caveats highlighted in section VI, however
further research that would directly compare a Second Life
experience with a ReactionGrid experience would be
desirable. Within these boundaries the study therefore
experimentally underpins the assumption made in [1] that the
lack of immersion is a distinct feature of a dedicated
provider.
In spite of the advance of other providers (e.g. OSGrid,
ReactionGrid, etc.), who recently created their own virtual
worlds using technology similar to the one of Linden Labs,
Second Life probably remains the most mature and
developed online virtual world. If immersion is expected to
be a central part of the student experience in e-learning, a
move away from Second Life must be done with
consideration due to the lack of population in-world of other
providers, which plays the vital role in user immersion
experience.
Clearly from many aspects a result that highlights Second
Life as the only „immersive‟ environment is highly
unsatisfactory both from an academic or a business driven
point of view. Further research needs to be conducted into
identifying strategies to address this lack of immersion in
other environments and mechanisms in a constructive way.
There seems, however, to be a current trend to host
OpenSim based islands within the organization itself on
dedicated servers. That, as we believe, will have a
deteriorating effect in immersiveness due to further de-
connection of the islands, even more than in the virtual world
of our dedicated provider ReactionGrid. Though
ReactionGrid suffers from underpopulation, it provides at
least some context outside of the University of Bedfordshire.
A possible way forward for organisations in higher
education might a networked solution in the format of a
“hypergrid”, following the example of the OSGrid
infrastructure. Then a certain cross-fertilization of various
activities in different institutions might ease the problem of
„underpopulation‟ and provide a sound basis for developing
a sense of immersion.
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... More than half of the participants gave a positive response to the statement that student-to-student and student-to-world interactions made them experience the knowledge, in other words helped them learn by doing. This positive response comes in accordance with the findings of the relevant literature [24,28,33]. The statement regarding the influence of student-to-world interactions gathered more positive results compared to student-to-student interactions, whilst student-to-student interactions had more neutral and negative replies. ...
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