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Uses of the Virtual World for Educational Purposes

  • European Training and Research Association for a Cooperation Key to business (EU-Track), Italy
  • Burgas Free University & Institute of Mathematics and Informatics - Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Abstract and Figures

Virtual worlds (VWs) provide sensory immersive experience, exploratory hands-on learning, collaborative social interaction, experiential learn-led activities and active role-play that go beyond the traditional classroom setting. Therefore these immersive environments and applications are very important tools in modern education practices. This paper focuses on the uses of virtual worlds and gamification strategies in the field of education. VWs provide excellent opportunities for an effective distance and online education through the support of groups or communities bringing together subject domain experts, teachers and students from different countries or locations. Consequently, the development of new collaborative e-learning approaches is facilitated. The article presents educational models and gamification strategies developed and tested during the activities carried out in two successful international projects. Some piloting results, lessons learnt, generalizations and conclusions for improvement the v-Learning effectiveness are described and analyzed in the last section.
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Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
Mariya Monova-Zheleva, Burgas Free University,
Michela Tramonti,Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi,
Abstract: Virtual worlds (VWs) provide sensory immersive experience, exploratory hands-on
learning, collaborative social interaction, experiential learn-led activities and active role-
play that go beyond the traditional classroom setting. Therefore these immersive
environments and applications are very important tools in modern education practices. This
paper focuses on the uses of virtual worlds and gamification strategies in the field of
education. VWs provide excellent opportunities for an effective distance and online education
through the support of groups or communities bringing together subject domain experts,
teachers and students from different countries or locations.
Consequently, the development of new collaborative e-learning approaches is facilitated. The
article presents educational models and gamification strategies developed and tested during
the activities carried out in two successful international projects. Some piloting results,
lessons learnt, generalizations and conclusions for improvement the v-Learning effectiveness
are described and analyzed in the last section.
Key Words: Virtual Worlds, v-Learning, e-tivities model, Gamification concept
Virtual world is defined as a synchronous, persistent network of people, represented as
avatars, and facilitated by networked computers. VWs can really enrich learning and
empower the learners mainly because they have the potential to support multimodal (using
different senses) communication among all participants in the educational process.
The first example of visual environments can be found in the early online games of over 40
years ago, such as Dungeon (MUD) games which were developed in the 1970s [2]. During
the next 20 years fully graphical multimedia MUD Object Oriented systems have been
developed along with Multi Player Online Games (MMOGs). Nowadays MMOGs (like
World of Warcraft) are very popular with tens of millions active subscriptions.
Traditional Learning system has been developing towards new teaching and more dynamic
environments. These are more and more connected to constructivist knowledge. Actually
both informative and cognitive dimensions become future challenges for society where ICT
technologies are changing learning and teaching approaches. One of the main results of the
3D Web-based technologies evolution is the development of Multi-user Virtual Environments
(MUVEs) such as Second Life and Active World ( and ).
MUVE gives multiple participants the opportunity of accessing virtual contexts at the same
time through their own avatars. This allows them to interact with digital artefacts,
communicate with other users, and recreate experiences providing them the capacity to solve
problems similar to those met in real life [5]. The MUVEs attracted not only people who
enjoy exploring on-line VWs, but also business world representatives and academic
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
The number of users in both personal and enterprise virtual world grows daily. This
phenomenon can be understood by analyzing of statistical data. Analysts forecast they will
become a mass market product from two to five years and just in 2017 the users will reach
one billion, ensuring their constant development
. Actually, use of the Internet has already
grown to over 3,079 billion worldwide (Internet Usage and World Population Statistics for
Dec 31, 2014) with penetration (% of population) at about 70% in Europe and Australia, 87%
in North America, 50% in Near East and Latin America, 35% in Asia, and 28% in Africa
Taking into account these data can be concluded that any improvement in online educational
methodologies and models, connected to the use of VWs and MUVEs, will have a high
impact on the world-wide on-line population.
1. Virtual Worlds and v-Learning
A first definition of “Virtual World” was reported in an interview to Jaron Lanier, titled “A
Portrait of the Young Visionary” of 1988. On the base of his words, virtual world is indicated
as a technology used in order to synthetize a shared reality. Each our relationship with
physical world is re-created in a new way. This has only an influence on how we perceive the
reality by senses.
Afterwards Loomis [11] distinguishes between physical and phenomenal worlds, stating that
the phenomenal world is the result of the mediation with physical world. Actually it is built
by our senses.
On the other hand, Virtual Reality aims to persuade users to be in a “reality” so as they can
act naturally and carry out the tasks assigned. In this way users are supposed to believe that
virtual world where is immersed keeps the expectations of a real world.
Virtual world developers combine a variety of tools and approaches to create engaging virtual
environments. There are many different types of virtual worlds that serve a different purpose
and are made to appeal to different types of users
On the basis of their main purpose the VWs could be classified in the following basic types:
Social VWs focus on enabling conversation among users and are often compared
to 3Dchatroooms;
Casual gaming VWs are very similar to social virtual worlds with the difference
that they also focus on users playing smaller, casual games within the virtual
Role-Playing VWs or MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing
games) encourage players to assume a role in a themed world and progress
through the game by competing with or against other players in a variety of quests
in the fictional environment.
VWs for content creation enable users to create their own content and in some
cases also sell it to other users.
Educational VWs aim to educate their users about a certain topic. Most often these
worlds offer similar features as the casual gaming virtual worlds.
Interest focused VWs are focused around users’ real world interests, such as
sports, music, etc.
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
Branded VWs are created around a certain real life brand and can include elements
of other types of virtual worlds. All of these encourage users to buy real products
of the given brand and some of them require a real purchase to be done for VW
account registering.
Mirror worlds are built to mirror the real world. They can be used as 3D maps.
VWs platforms are software frameworks that enable users to create their own
virtual worlds and some of these platforms (mainly open-source ones) enable
users to host their worlds on their own servers.
According the revenue models VWs could be paid (users pay subscription fee) or free to play.
Another important characteristic of one VW is the age of the users (children, teenagers or
adults). Virtual worlds have also different technological requirements. They could be
accessed by standard web browser by installing a plugin (if they do not have full 3D
graphics) or, in case of fully 3D worlds, the user will need appropriate computer hardware
and the installation of a standalone software client (application). Most advanced virtual
worlds also require a broadband internet connection on the user’s side.
The use of Virtual Reality is very useful when the activities to be carried out by users in
reality are too expensive, difficult and dangerous. That is why it allows the users to explore
the space relationships which would be impossible to go over in the physical world, such as
molecular modeling and astronomical simulation. In effect the use of simulators in Virtual
Reality permits people being trained by cutting down possible risks met in a real training.
This is useful, especially, for solders, pilots and surgeons. Another example is in
Architecture. Users can get over in real time a ‘real’ 3D architectural environment. They can
examine spaces, light and furniture in order to choose the best project to be realized. Finally,
in Art, you can re-build virtually art works or artistic environments damaging by ages in
order to favor their conservation.
The systems, which can support these structures, are platforms, namely v-Learning platforms.
These are formal virtual learning environments, where learners can fulfil, organize and
manage learning courses. V-learning environment is a space inside the Network where users
can work together through a variety of tools and informative resources in order to achieve
common learning objectives in problem solving activities [8]. Knowledge is considered as a
set of meanings, characterized by metacognitive processes through the interaction with an
environment including tools and resources
V-learning is a term describing online learning in a virtual world, creating the participants a
sense of reality. V-learning promotes learning by encouraging the use of various techniques
and increases the level of commitment of students to study the subjects. Full immersion in the
virtual environment supports the multisensory transmission among trainees. V-learning
provides learners an example of integration between usual web functions of e-learning
platforms and 3D virtual environment. Virtual worlds represent effective training tools,
providing users an immersive graphic environment and supporting learning based on
experience. They set up the potential for learning by doing and problem- or challenge-based
learning and offer the learner control through exploratory learning experiences [18]. V-
learning promotes better opportunities:
for learners to personalize and customize their learning process;
for teachers, trainers and mentors for adaptation and customization of the
educational models for learning through virtual interaction and work.
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
There are different types of educational VWs, but two of them are the most important. The
first type is characterized by users access and interaction with the virtual environment
through specific tools, such as helmet, glasses and gloves. This represents the result of
several studies aiming at producing and developing a cyborg body, a union between human
being and machine.
The second one allows users to build an alter ego with a new body and to go into the virtual
world with it. This ‘alter ego’ is identified in an avatar, which live in the new virtual world
interacting still with the other virtual bodies [17].
The use of the virtual worlds ensures a drastic reduction of logistics costs and a better
accessibility and interactivity. It is very suitable for simulations and offers a high level of
immersion. As learning environment, teachers can develop training path exploiting the
potentialities of both 3 and 2 dimensions.
The mainstream class lesson becomes a combination of different tools: voice, chat, text,
audio, video and presentations. While the contents management and their updating occur
through a web friendly interface, you also can schedule tutorial videos or tests, foresee some
monitoring instruments in order to supervise the tasks carried out by learners.
Due to the use of these virtual worlds, Web 3D offers a great opportunity of creating an
educational environment [1] where learners, from different places, start jointly and
synchronously tactile or kinesthetic activities within the game (such as in TALETE
or virtual world (such as in AVATAR
where the virtual learning environment (VLE) was
created in the Second life). Actually the 3D of virtual worlds encourages the creativity
development of the learners more than those in 2D
[4]. These are defined as communicative
environments, which can amplify the cognitive capacities, called “multiple intelligences” by
H. Gardner. Therefore the interaction with reality simulated permit learners representing the
knowledge's contents as a game to compare and verify with the real situations. In this context
learners re-create their educational path according to the different styles of their individual
learning, favoring a real comprehension [7].
In the virtual environment the learner activity is structured on the base of comparative
analysis on the problems occurred. That means that each learner acts as member of a specific
group providing an individual contribution in the dynamic interactions with the others inside
the virtual reality. These processes will favor their organizational learning though knowledge
sharing [20].
Finally the 3D virtual environments support the development of knowledge through “learning
by doing”, especially through the combination the playful-fantastic dimension and the social
one [15].
In summary the use of VWs for educational purposes has accelerated exponentially over the
last years and the lines among virtual worlds, games and social networks are blurring
significantly. However there are some real challenges such as selection of the most
appropriate virtual world and how best to design experiences and activities for learners.
Both projects mentioned above (AVATAR and TALETE
) were focused on usage of the
virtual worlds for education. The starting point form the methodological point of view for
these both projects was the broadly accepted Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model of the e-
tivities [10] as well as the Gamification concept.
Teaching mAths through innovative LEarning approach and conTEnts /TALETE/;
Added Value of Teaching in a Virtual World /AVATAR/;
The authors of the article were involved in the manager teams of both projects.
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
2. Five Stage e-tivities Model
The Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage e-tivities Model can be used to identify the typical activities
tutors may be involved in at different stages of the students’ learning processes (please see
Figure 1.).
Figure 1 - Gilly Salmon's Five Stage Model of e-tivities
Practical usage of this model put in focus the following issues:
Provision of technical support to enable student participation - the student has to
succeed in setting up their access to the on-line system in order to be able to learn
via it. The on-line tutor has a very important role in this process either at the level
of providing the student with technical support from help desks or by maintaining
high their learning motivation.
Students Management - Different learners may be at different stages in this
development process. The tutor must manage and support students in the same
group who may be at different stages in the Five Step Model.
The learning philosophy and instructional design integrated into the model are key
factors regarding to the students’ progress and achievements.
This model was adapted to two different learning methodologies developed in the framework
of the two international projects AVATAR and TALETE (described in Paragraphs 4 and 5).
Both of them are based on different learning philosophies and environments, instructional
design, target groups, subject domains, technological solutions, and so on. Some conclusions
and generalizations about the effectiveness of the learning process and how it can be
improved (on the basis of the provided examples) are briefly described at the end of this
3. Gamification Concept
Another important factor in common between these two projects is the use of elements come
from games and techniques of game design in different contexts, that, today, is identified
with the term “gamification”.
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
"Gamification techniques strive to leverage people's natural desires for socializing, learning,
mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, or closure.” (Source:
Taking the definition above into account, it can be concluded that actually the gamification is
about more than just playing games. Indeed, some gamification techniques do not involve
playing games at all, but they are based on the concepts of applying game-design thinking to
non-game contexts. In other words, a game based concept is applied to a different content in
order to meet specific learning objectives and outcomes and to stimulate desired
The question whether the applying of the gamification concept in eLearning truly helps
learners learn is broadly discussed in scientific, academic and educational societies. Several
organizations do not consider the "gamification" in eLearning as a viable approach on
account, especially, of longer time for the development and higher costs. However, there are
some statistics that clearly establish this new approach cannot be ignored any more.
The gamification seems to progressively appear not only in the schools and universities but
also in corporate training environments. For example, some stakeholders are now recognizing
the importance of gamification for training purposes in the terms of opportunities for their
employees to acquire and cultivate skill sets, making them masters of their own eLearning
experience via increased engagement. The market growth of gamification is expected to
reach the $1,707 billion in 2015 and the 5,500 billion in 2018. The biggest market is expected
to be North America, followed by Europe
conducted a survey regarding learner preferences in correlation with the learning
effectiveness and level of motivation. The survey showed (Please, see Figure 2) that 89% of
those surveyed stated that a point system would boost their engagement, 82% are in favor of
multiple difficulty levels and explorable content, and 62% stated that they would be
motivated to learn if leaderboards were involved and they had the opportunity to compete
with other colleagues.
Figure 2 - Gamification Survey Results (2014)-
The data above show that the relevant application of the game-design thinking concepts in
educational environment can significantly improve the motivation of learners to become
active participants in the learning process.
There is a variety of gamification strategies which do not seem to be equally effective. This
depends on their real capacity of engaging the audience in the learning process, that is when
learners find these strategies interesting and appealing. Below are described some key
Top Gamification Stats and Facts for 2015:
Gamification Survey Resuls (2014)-
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
components and success factors that have to be considered during the development of a
gamified environment:
Engaging learners in interactions (competition or cooperation) many of modern
game-based educational environments let students learn together stimulating peer-to-
peer interactions. To consider an appropriate reward for the competition winners and
for leaders of cooperative actions has high importance.
Aesthetics of the learning environment - A pleasant and beautiful environment visually
designed with proper engaging elements brings positive emotions and motivate people
to interact with the product.
Learning aims and objectives have to be clearly communicated. The rules have to be set
in order to ensure an effective learning environment.
Challenges and tasks for reaching the learning goals have to be concluded with
feedback, which let learners understand the issue and go to the next level of
competency. Moreover, according to Flow Theory
challenges and tasks have to be
appropriate to learners’ skill level.
The different learning paths and choices available for learners create uncertainty , but,
in the same time, increase their excitement in the activities and tasks to be carried out
and be solved. They become autonomous to decide freely which path is more suitable;
to construct and re-construct hypotheses on the base of the consequences of their
The game story/scenario, e.g. context, has to be adequate and corresponding to the age
level and background of the learners who play the role in it. In the same time it has to
be appealing, exciting and bringing the motivation and engagement to the highest level.
Game strategies are connected with kinesthetic experience (implementation tasks and
practice) which facilitates understanding and comprehending new information by
additional sensory channels.
Reward system in the learning process is a very important component. There are many
mechanisms which could be used, such as badges or credits (points) but also exposing
the development of the learner or showing their progress bars. As badges and points are
the simplest to think about, because they became the most popular one. The rewards
and efforts have to be connected properly taking into account the complexity of the
context and the situational use of the artifacts in order to create an enjoyable, engaging
and fun solution which stimulates desired behaviors.
According to the findings of TalentLMS
2014, there are certain gamification techniques
that most learners and eLearning professionals can perceive as more effective than others.
Among the most preferred ones are progressing to different levels (30%), points/scores
(27%), real time feedback on performance (26%), progress bars (25%), and activity feeds
(24%). The diagram, shown on Figure 3, presents the techniques used in learning design
approaches and their relationship to retention of learning:
Flow Theory
Gamification Survey Results (2014)-
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
Figure 3 - Learning design approaches and techniques and their relation to retention of learning
( )
Taking into account the relationships presented on the diagram above can be concluded that
the integration of the gamification concept into the learning solutions can provide an effective
approach to technology enhanced learning. And last but not least, it has to be underlined that
the development of gamification concept is cost-effective and less time consuming as
compared to production of a game. Therefore, Gamification in eLearning is a highly
recommended approach for retention of knowledge.
4. Project AVATAR - Added Value of Teaching in a Virtual World
The main objective of this project was, through the production of innovative AVATAR
learning environment (LE), to improve the quality of teaching and learning in secondary
schools mainly in Europe. Within the project AVATAR the development of the learning
environment, methodology and resources allowed an expansion of the traditional classroom
education. The result was to have provided tools and functionality for conducting virtual
training in different subject areas with the possibility of applying different educational
strategies and techniques and promoting an active students participation and their
involvement in the learning process. AVATAR learning environment is an hybrid
environment comprising e-learning platform and v-learning environment. The project
covered the training of the secondary school teachers (1st stage) and training of the secondary
school students at age from 16 to 18 years.
Training was conducted through e-learning platform based on open source platform
Claroline, and in a virtual world, built in the Second Life. In the four-month course were
provided 100 hours of individual studies and group work. Teachers were trained to work in
Second Life in order to build objects and create v-learning products/projects. Then the trained
teachers pass on their knowledge and experience of the students and tested with them the
developed v-learning products. The survey was conducted among teachers in secondary
schools from Italy, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Austria, Denmark and Spain. Respondents were
The duration of this project was from 2009 to 2012.
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
110 teachers. The obtained study results give the possibility of making some generalizations
and conclusions about the state of the use of virtual worlds in secondary education in Europe,
and of defining some general guidelines and trends. In terms of e-Learning platforms, as
shown by the graph in Figure 4, only 32% of teachers regularly use e-learning platforms in
their work. 32% of respondents declare that they benefit from such platforms only in the
conduct of certain lessons and 10% of teachers do not use such platforms in their work. In
terms of virtual worlds as seen from the graph in Figure 5, only 4% of the respondents
regularly use virtual worlds for training in their work. 19% of the respondents declare that
they benefit from such platforms only in the conduct of certain lessons and 77% of teachers
do not use such platforms in their work [13, 14].
Figure 5
In addition, during the project, a training path was developed. It aimed at improving, in
secondary schools, teachers' and students' knowledge, skills and competences regarding the
use of virtual worlds for educational purposes in different subject domains.
The training was implemented in a hybrid environment combining e-platform, based on the
open source platform Claroline, and v-learning solution developed in the VW of Second life.
The e-learning platform (Figure 7) provides all the necessary arsenal of tools and
functionality to support the process of e-learning: calendar of courses; resource center with
study materials that can be reused and shared in changing pedagogical context; educational
content structured in modules, each covering a distinct logical sequence of lessons and tasks
to be performed; chat; forums - national (where it communicates in the language of the
country) and international (where communicating in English - the official language of the
project), Wiki, tracking system; notice board; frequently asked questions section and so on.
Via the platform to trainees were delivered self-assessment forms containing a list of
competences that the participant can acquire by completing the module tasks as well as
questions that give feedback from the participants concerning their experienced outcome of
the module including an assessment of their own learning process.
Figure 6 - AVATAR e-learning platform
Using of e-learning platforms in the
secondary schools
For certain
Using of VWs in the secondary schools
For certain
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
AVATAR v-learning environment was established in the VW of the Second Life including
the following spaces:
Conference hall for virtual meetings and seminars here were assured: support of the
high-quality audio, voice communications; the ability for import and shared use of
multimedia documents; opportunity for video recording of events. (Figure 7)
Figure 7 - Virtual conference hall of the AVATAR Project
Learning playground the trainees improved their knowledge and practical skills to
construct and edit 3D objects.
Auditorium where the v-learning sessions in charge of the proven experts in v-learning
were held. (Figure 8)
Figure 8 - AVATAR Project Auditorium
Personal plots for trained teachers spaces where every involved teacher builds his/her
learning space (building, experimental playground, studio, and so on). In these spaces
teachers tested their v-learning projects with their students.
The training path structure addressed to the teachers covered the following training modules:
Introduction Module the teachers access to the e-learning platform and course
overview, browse the start guide to become familiar with the contents, post a
contribution in the Welcome forum, browse the guides on the e-learning platform and
create a blog profile of yourself following the guidelines provided.
E-Learning Platform Introduction Module main aims here are socialization and
getting to know the functions of the e-learning platform. Teachers introduce themselves
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
to the other participants by posting contributions in the Café forum, read the course
curriculum and the course chart; study the team building and team work resources; post
entries on your blog stating your view on the benefits and challenges of working and
learning in teams; participate in a chat session with fellow participants and with your
moderator as well as participate in a virtual classroom session to get to know your
fellow participants and your moderator; learn about Second Life requirements on your
V-Learning Platform Introduction Module Accessing Second Life, acquiring basic
skills, accessing Second Life support resources. Teachers watch the video presentation:
Introduction to virtual world platforms and write a blog entry in your blog on your
expectations towards becoming a Second Life inhabitant; they sign up for an account
with Linden Lab and create an avatar; download, install and set up the Second Life
Viewer and experience different movements, tasks and communication skills: take a
tour of one of the Second Life Welcome Island learn how to search, communicate and
participate in groups in the world.
V-Learning Intermediate Module moderator teach and guide the participants as they
practice the use of the community tools with a set of practical tasks; in groups
participants choose a Second Life location and explore it - take screenshots, create
landmarks and share these via the class wiki, describe and reflect on your experiences
in the class wiki.
V-learning Advanced Module Basic Object Creation - The participants access this
module through the V-Learning platform. In Second Life a moderator introduces the
Build menu and give a short demonstration of the object creation tools, where upon the
participants is given a set of object creation tasks to complete under the guidance and
support of the moderator. The participants are provided with a texture library for this
V-Learning Advanced Module Advanced Object Creation - The participants access
this module through the V-Learning platform. In Second Life a moderator introduces
the advanced features of Second Life building and provides a set of object creation
tasks for the participants to complete under the guidance and support of the moderator.
The participants are provided with various scripts for use in these building tasks.
V-Learning Educational Design Module Teachers participate in an ongoing
discussion on education and virtual worlds. They write a post in their personal blogs on
their choice of discussion; read and comment on the reviews of your fellow
Ongoing V-Learning Seminar The participants access this module through the V-
Learning platform. The presentations takes the form of traditional classroom teaching,
discussions and Q&A.
V-Learning Project in the framework of this module the teachers consider what you
have learnt in modules 1 to 8. They write a description of their idea for a virtual world
course using the template provided and post the description in the forum, write a blog
entry in their blog on the e-learning platform and share their idea with the other
participants. All teachers read the blog posts of each other and find out whether some of
them have similar ideas to yours. The technical moderators assist this process.
Afterwards the teachers design a virtual world course for one of your classes using
Second Life as virtual world platform; carry out the course with their students; evaluate
the course with the students and write a blog post on their own and on their students’
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
According the official project figures, 123 teachers enrolled in the Avatar course, 65 teachers
attended the training, 55 dropped out and 3 acted as observers. The reasons for dropping out
can be summarized in the following groups: lack of time, lack of interest, technical problems
and insufficient support. Questionnaires were distributed in different countries to secondary
school teachers who had participated in the Avatar course and had gained experience of using
virtual worlds and their students. The majority of the participants answered the post course
online questionnaire [16]. The responses can be summarized as follows:
In general the teachers’ attitudes are positive. Teachers share the opinion that Second
Life (SL) is an appropriate training environment for students with age over 16.
Useful environment if the students live far away and cannot come school every day.
Valuable teaching activities that supplement real life teaching can also take place in SL.
SL is good for simulations and virtual tours.
The VW offers a new interactive way of teaching, which is in line with how students
interact in the modern world.
Students are stimulated to be active part in the learning process. They are engaged in a
new way of learning and this increases their motivation and interest to participate in
emotionally-driven activities.
SL gives the opportunity for “better visualization of the subject for better understanding
of the matter”. The students are able better to realize the real value for the training
course and to understand that what they are learning adds value to their lives.
Excellent environment for communication, exchange of information and knowledge,
cooperation among students and all participants on international base.
Good platform for development of new improvement of existing skills and
competences (e.g. in communication, foreign language proficiency and use of ICT) by
participating in activities which are inherent in traditional teaching and learning as well
as in activities which are not possible in real educational process, i.e. teleportation and
travelling in distant virtual places.
The next diagram on Figure 9 shows what teaching activities have been carried out using
virtual worlds and how often these activities have been implemented.
Figure 9 Teaching activities carried out using virtual worlds
Apart from these positive aspects some disadvantages also were documented:
Such kind of virtual environment is useful in some subjects but not in general.
Group Work
Teaching activities carried out using VW
v. often
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
The establishment of the environment is consuming too much time and other resources.
Residents of the VW can hide their persons.
Technical requirements of the VW environment are high for the majority of the
secondary schools.
5. Project TALETE Teaching maths through innovative learning approach and
Main aim of the project TALETE was to improve the training and learning of Math
(especially Geometry) by the development of modern pedagogical instruments and
methodologies based on the advanced ICT achievements and Serious Games Theory.
TALETE outcomes and products, addressed to the teachers and their students, aimed to test
an innovative pedagogical tool making the study of Mathematics more interesting and
creative, transforming a possibly difficult situation into a simpler, more dynamic, flexible,
surprising, engaging, intriguing one to foster the student’s curiosity. Through the TALETE
training path the 14-16 years-old students can improve their deep mathematical
understanding with a focus on the geometry, especially their performances on the base of
and national evaluation schedules.
Main target groups of the project are:
Teachers involved in the development and testing of innovative didactic tools
that can help raise the interest level and motivate students to acquire mathematical
Students considered to test directly with their teachers the attractiveness and
efficiency of new didactic tools and also to improve their transversal skills (e.g.
communicative, learning to learn, social and digital skills) useful for future
professional life.
The educational model of TALETE project starts from the concept of the mathematization: it
describes real-world context expressed mathematically. The mathematization uses everyday
contexts expressed in mathematical language and concepts for solving real problems and the
mathematics becomes the vehicle for this purpose [3].
The mathematization is viewed as a constructive, interactive and reflective activity. The point
of departure for education is not learning rules and formulas, but rather working with context.
A context is a situation which appeals to children and which they can recognize in theory.
The mathematization of the nature has to be enriched with the dense spectrum of various
mathematical practices. It means that math can be taught and learned in active and creative
process. On the basis of the concepts and principles described above and in accordance with
the standards set by TIMSS, PISA and National Curriculums of Math, the project Research
Educational Team (RET) selected relevant assessment schedules on national and international
level in the domain of teaching and learning Math (especially Geometry) for 14-16 years old
students in the partner countries. These schedules were developed as 3D serious games
scenarios implemented in a virtual environment. Under the project framework was developed
a training course for teachers of Math in order to make them familiar with the v-learning
principles and to improve their theoretical and practical preparation for using virtual worlds
The duration of the project was from 2011 till 2013
OECD PISA (Program for International Student Assessment)
IEA TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study)
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
in the classroom activities. After finishing the course, the involved teachers tested the
innovative methodology and pedagogical instruments with their students who were separated
in experimental and control groups.
The TALETE training path design is divided into two sections related to the learning and
training environment and according to the target group considered: e-learning platform for
the teachers and 3D environment for teachers and students. It included 23 hours of theoretical
knowledge, web seminar and testing of the pedagogical tools, 15 hours of experimentation
with the students involved.
Figure 10 TALETE training Environment
TALETE e-Learning Platform contains educational pills (translated into English, Italian,
Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish) and a forum addressed only to the teachers, and the 3D virtual
environment contains the scenarios produced on the base of the assessment schedules
previously selected by Research and Education Team. The e-learning platform is realized in
order to deliver the e-course, in terms of educational pills and web seminars, and the social
area for the teachers. This tool allows target group to access their training contents according
to the defined the TALETE training path. Afterwards the 3D virtual environment was used by
the teachers in order to test the effectiveness of new pedagogical tools with their students.
Figure 11 3D scenarios for TALETE games
In detail, here below, we can describe the two learning environments.
The TALETE e-learning platform was developed on the basis of open source platform
Claroline (please see Figure 12). The learning content was produced in form of the SCORM
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
learning objects. The “Learning objects” are defined as small, independent chunks of
knowledge or interactions stored in a database, which can be presented as units of instruction
or information. They are typically self-contained, interactive, and reusable.
Figure 12 TALETE e-learning platform
The following learning objects are available in the TALETE e-platform: the multimedia
lesson; slides and lecture notes.
The multimedia lesson is a learning object delivered through the e-learning platform built up
by an audio explanation synchronized with a slide presentation using the Adobe Presenter
plug in. The interface of each multimedia lesson is provided with a hypertextual index
allowing the user to navigate the lesson, to interrupt and start again the listening without
returning at the beginning of the explanation.
The slides realized by the didactic experts for their audio lessons have been converted into
.pdf. Slides are printable documents allowing the users to take note while listening to the
explanation. Thanks to the slides the user will write didactic expert’s comments or memo and
reminders. They are useful to brush up the lesson in off-line modality.
The lecture notes represent in depth studies to better detail one of the contents dealt with
during the audio lesson or to provide students with a different perspective of the contents
already explained.
The educational pills, delivered to the teachers, cover the following main topics:
Results of last international surveys (PISA, TIMSS),
International and national selected schedules to be used in 3D world,
Concept of “mathematisation”
Contents and methodologies focusing on the potential use of new technologies
Role of the teachers involved as trainers of the students during the second phase of the
Afterwards, in order to access the 3D virtual environment the students involved had to follow
the instructions described in a video demo published on the TALETE website. An animated,
3D scenario plays at the opening of the game to introduce the overall storyline. The students
then arrive in a virtual kitchen (everyday context where math ideas have been embedded) to
unlock the challenges set forth by the TALETE partners.
The virtual world was developed on the basis of the software platform Unity 3D for creating
of serious games and virtual worlds and is addressed to the teachers and students from
secondary schools in Europe. The challenges are specific mathematical problems covered by
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
the topics of the National Curriculums of the partner countries. The problems were
implemented as separate, but linked in a common scenario, mini-games. Clicking on selected
objects throughout the kitchen interactive exercises and hidden surprises, also known as
“Easter eggs”, are unlocked. All eight mini-games (challenges) can be accessed by student
username and password. Please, see the Figure below.
Figure 13 - TALETE 3D Virtual Environment Access
The kitchen is a fully explorable 3D space, viewed by the user in FPS (first person shooter)
camera mode. Students can watch videos, explore a 3D environment and play interactive
games directly in their web-browser. In addition, they may explore the kitchen independently
or with the guidance of a teacher as part of a lesson plan. Each student’s scores are recorded
to a database that can be accessed by the teachers to evaluate performance.
Figure 14 - TALETE start screen + screenshot of a scenario with the following areas: 1 - Area for visualization of the
context and visual feedback, enabling learning by doing and exploring techniques; 2 - Area for textual representation
of the context, problem, tasks and questions; 3 Area for answering; 4 Feedback area and 5 Navigation area.
TALETE 3D environment is addressed to teachers in order to:
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
test the effectiveness of new pedagogical tools with their students;
evaluate the student performance for the achievement of the final pedagogical goal.
The main objective of the TALETE educational game is to improve learning skills and
overall understanding of the course material. An appropriately developed game can introduce
an amount of wit and levity to balance the intensity of the experience and to make a big
improvement. 3D environment helps teachers to [12, 19]:
Get Attention aids students in shifting from one task to another and increases focus.
Maintain interest students are moved into content that stimulates them and continues
to intrigue them.
Achievement collecting some points and earning some badges adds a sense of
purpose and supports focus on key elements. Students are also very goal oriented and
want to make sure their time is taking them somewhere.
Increase Openness to New Ideas when people are enjoying something, they can be a
lot more receptive to new concepts.
In order to obtain valid data to be compared and discussed, two kinds of student groups were
formed for the testing phase: a control group and an experimentation group. These were set
up in order to check and compare better the results obtained at the beginning and at the end of
the experimentation phase.
In each partner country one experimental group, including 30 students, and another control
group, including at least 30 students, were selected for the experimentation.
The project partners or the teachers trained established two student groups on the base of a
random criterion. The two groups were independent, that is none of them knew the existence
of the other group. Finally, the participants into the experimentation were no. 471 teachers,
39 classes and 311 students.
Teachers submitted to both experimentation and control groups the maths schedules before
and at the end of the practical activities in order to collect relevant and evident data on the
efficiency of new educational tools. These maths schedules are those selected for the
production of the scenarios for the 3D virtual environment [19].
Figure 13 - An example of the results achieved by one experimentation group
Moreover the evaluation of the TALETE pedagogical approach and tools was, also, carried
out by teachers and students through “e-survey” during the testing phase. The survey was
developed using a Web-based program such as Survey Monkey. This facilitated the
collecting and processing work, because the system was connected directly to a database
where all completed survey's data were categorized and stored for later specific analysis.
Experimentation group
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
Each questionnaire was developed following the criteria concerning the project phases and
divided in two main arguments: Expectation and Satisfaction for both teachers and students.
The data collected show on average a good rate of appreciation for student satisfaction level.
Considering that the attribution of compliance / non-compliance provided:
1. an assignment of Full compliance”, when the overall ratings (average) for a given
item had reached at least 75% in the two best categories of assessment;
2. an assignment of Partial compliance”, when the overall ratings (average) for a given
item had reached at least 75% in the three intermediate categories of assessment;
3. an assignment of Non-compliance”, when the overall ratings (average) for a given
item had reached at least 75% in the worst two categories of assessment;
Monitoring and evaluation team assigned the "full compliance" for the results reported for
this item, because:
75,50% of the sample involved assigned ratings between category 1 and category 2
(the best evaluation categories proposals), for “The contents have been easy to
82,30% of the sample involved assigned ratings between category 1 and category 2
(the best evaluation categories proposals), for “The originality of the content offered
think it was appropriate”.
76,70% of the sample involved assigned ratings between category 1 and category 2
(the best evaluation categories proposals), for I think that the interest of the contents
from a practical viewpoint was adequate”.
77,20% of the sample involved assigned ratings between category 1 and category 2
(the best evaluation categories proposals), for The contents are supportive of my
study outside of class”.
Списание „Компютърни науки и комуникации”, Том 4, No 2(2015), БСУ, Бургас
In summary, the teachers consider innovative and interesting the ICT use as well as the link
with mathematics contents and reality that the created 3D exercises represented. They are
even motivated, in some case, to apply this approach to their teaching everyday activity.
However, most of students were very engaged by experimentation: one big success of
TALETE project was to have given chance to get into the subject to those students usually
facing problems or not interested in mathematics. Even if the involvement and the
collaboration of students depends on also from the interests of their teachers and their ability
to get in a game with their students themselves.
An obstacle for most of the schools was the use of old ICT tools that did not allow
implementing and testing new technologies with more advanced systems. On the other hand
there are still gaps in the ICT areas and English language that don't allow a more competition
among schools at European level. Even if it is preferable that the students learn and get more
familiar with foreign languages also favoring their participation in more different European
Despite of these difficulties, the experimentation of TALETE training path showed good
results from the point of methodological view in terms of innovation and attractiveness.
Actually, considering all the feedbacks and comments from teachers and students, we made
some corrections in the TALETE scenarios and the TALETE application is now also
available with a lower-solution of the scenarios in order to allow all the schools to use it.
Integration of the Gamification concept and strategies into the virtual learning environment
helps create an effective learning system that enables learners to rehearse real-life scenarios
and challenges in a safe environment. The usage of virtual worlds and Gamification
educational strategies contribute to the realization of emotionally-driven learning and the
formation of positive attitude which ensure an enjoyable experience for learners and motivate
them to develop their skills, talents, and interests.
Learners are able to practise in real-life situations and challenges in a safe environment which
leads to a more engaged learning experience that facilitates better knowledge retention.
During the training sessions participants receive instant feedback. This also facilitates better
learner engagement and thereby better recall and retention. Gamification approach can lead
towards strong behavioural change especially when combined with the scientific principles of
repeated retrieval and spaced repetition.
Taking all the aspects described above, we can conclude that the careful selection of the
virtual environment, gamification strategies and the pedagogical model in line with the
concrete specifics of the educational context, is crucial for the building of learners' self-
confidence and their empowerment during the learning; for encouragement of learners’
positive attitude and catalysing behavioural changes and, last but not least, for support of
enriched learning experiences.
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This article presents some results and outcomes developed in the framework of the project "Teaching maths trough innovative learning approach and contents" (TALETE) [1]. Main aim of the project is to improve the training and learning of Math (especially Geometry) by development of modern pedagogical instruments and methodologies based on the advanced ICT achievements. The article presents briefly the project as a whole. Next section describes the main standards and paradigms used as fundaments of the development in methodological and technological aspects. The main functionalities of the developed e-learning platform and 3D virtual world are also briefly presented. These platforms are necessary for the implementation of hybrid training and learning in the class room in order to achieve balanced integration of the theory in accordance with the concepts of PISA about mathematical literacy and competency clusters. Introduction. For monitoring educational progress at least three main concept areas need to be considered, namely: Intended learning outcomes; Opportunities to Learn (OTL); Competencies/attitudes of students. Definitions of intended outcomes are needed for steering educational processes that result in OTL, which in turn are supposed to influence the competencies and attitudes of students. Moreover these definitions are needed to be able to construct assessment schedules for measuring the extent to which the intentions are realized. Intentions may be formally legislated in syllabi, examination standards or "Intended Curricula" ** . These constitute the basis for guiding a lot of educational processes, such as the content of the textbooks, teaching and learning activities in schools, the content of (in-service or pre-service) teacher training, etc. An analysis of these intentions is usually the basis for designing international comparative assessments that currently are run by international organizations, such as OECD PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) [2,3] and IEA TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) [4,5]. These assessments are intended to assist policy makers to better understand to what extent their educational systems are measuring up with developments taking place in other countries.
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Insegnare e Apprendere in Rete intende offrire un’ampia panoramica sull’uso di Internet e più in generale delle risorse telematiche a supporto della didattica e della formazione in rete. Il libro è articolato in due sezioni. Nella prima vengono affrontati, in modo molto semplificato, gli aspetti tecnologici legati al funzionamento logico di una rete di computer e all’utilizzo dei relativi servizi di comunicazione e di accesso all’informazione. La seconda, a carattere più didattico-metodologico, è invece mirata esplicitamente agli usi educativi delle risorse di rete e questo sia dal punto di vista di chi insegna sia di chi apprende. Particolare rilievo viene dato agli approcci metodologici della cooperazione educativa, alternando la trattazione teorica alla descrizione di alcuni specifici progetti sperimentali. Per quanto articolato in due sezioni, il libro segue un percorso espositivo a “spirale”, ritornando cioè più e più volte su alcuni concetti chiave, inquadrandoli ora dal lato tecnologico ora da quello didattico-metodologico, offrendo così sempre nuovi motivi di approfondimento e di riflessione.
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The results of two types of experiments are reported. In 1 type, Ss matched depth intervals on the ground plane that appeared equal to frontal intervals at the same distance. The depth intervals had to be made considerably larger than the frontal intervals to appear equal in length, with this physical inequality of equal-appearing intervals increasing with egocentric distance of the intervals (4 m-12 m). In the other type of experiment, Ss viewed targets lying on the ground plane and then, with eyes closed, attempted either to walk directly to their locations or to point continuously toward them while walking along paths that passed off to the side. Performance was quite accurate in both motoric tasks, indicating that the distortion in the mapping from physical to visual space evident in the visual matching task does not manifest itself in the visually open-loop motoric tasks.
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This hybrid review-case study introduces three-dimensional (3-D) virtual worlds and their educational potential to medical/health librarians and educators. Second life ( is perhaps the most popular virtual world platform in use today, with an emphasis on social interaction. We describe some medical and health education examples from Second Life, including Second Life Medical and Consumer Health Libraries (Healthinfo Island-funded by a grant from the US National Library of Medicine), and VNEC (Virtual Neurological Education Centre-developed at the University of Plymouth, UK), which we present as two detailed 'case studies'. The pedagogical potentials of Second Life are then discussed, as well as some issues and challenges related to the use of virtual worlds. We have also compiled an up-to-date resource page (, with additional online material and pointers to support and extend this study.
Using the 3D Virtual Environments for Teaching: Report from the Field Virtual worlds represent a powerful media for instruction, offering a wide scope of tools for social interaction and innovation in learning that encourages student participation. Supported by the AVATAR course, teachers were able to productively create teaching and learning environments that support the needs of learners of diverse linguistic, cultural and economic backgrounds, all within a safe virtual environment. This paper outlines the AVATAR course structure, delivery, experiences, and post course reflections on teaching within a 3D virtual world.
Constructing a virtual world requires certain technical skills and the ability to make difficult decisions regarding how the world will look and feel. However, the most difficult aspect of building a virtual world has less to do with the building of the virtual spaces and more to do the conceptualisation of how teaching and learning will occur in this new type of environment. This paper examines some of the issues involved in the process of planning a virtual learning world by focusing on key design questions that need to be asked prior to building virtual instructional spaces.
Mathematical modeling: Can it be taught and learnt?, presented during " The future of Mathematics Education in Europe
  • W Blum
  • R Borromeo-Ferri
Blum W., Borromeo-Ferri R. (2007). Mathematical modeling: Can it be taught and learnt?, presented during " The future of Mathematics Education in Europe ", 17 Dec 2007, Lisbon Portugal.