Delve into the Deep: Learning Potential in Metaverses and 3D Worlds


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Author(s): Mar Camacho, Vanessa Esteve, Mercè Gisbert.
Metaverses and 3D Virtual Worlds are increasingly being used in education and training to create learning experiences which are immersive, authentic and media rich. In particular, they provide opportunities to structure remote learning in engaging ways and are fast becoming part of the learning landscape in general.

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Delve into the Deep: Learning Potential in Metaverses and 3D Worlds

  1. 1. In-depth Delve into the Deep: Learning Potential in Metaverses and 3D WorldsAuthors Metaverses and 3D Virtual Worlds are increasingly being used in education and train- ing to create learning experiences which are immersive, authentic and media rich. InMaria del Mar Camacho particular, they provide opportunities to structure remote learning in engaging and are fast becoming part of the learning landscape in general. While there is a grow- ing interest among practitioners and researchers in the training and knowledge sharingVanessa Esteve potential of these unique learning environments, current virtual world technologies offer a range of capabilities that need to be further developed.Mercedes Gisbert The aim of this paper therefore is to examine the potentialities of metaverses and 3DLaboratorio de Aplicaciones virtual worlds and to discuss how they may serve as learning tools. The article takesTelemáticas en la Educación, into account innovations that should be introduced to school education and considersUniversitad Rovira i Virgili the broad frameworks that have been developed to support the design and study of learning in immersive worlds.joomla2/index.php We conclude that these environments help extend learning beyond the classroom. Educators, practitioners and researchers are offered a wide range of recommendationsTags and provided with basic key points for developing effective practices and for ensuring the achievement of meaningful learning outcomes. The paper provides an overview ofmetaverses, learning different educational best practices that use Metaverses and Virtual Worlds as learningtools, 3D Virtual Worlds,collaborative learning tools.environments 1. Metaverses and 3D Virtual Worlds Generally, 3D Virtual Worlds are also known as Metaverses, a concept taken from the Sci-fi novel “Snow Crash”, written by Neil Stephenson in 1992. Although the notions are not exact- ly synonym, a detailed discussion about this topic is still alive in the existing literature. How- ever, and agreeing with Castronova (2005) we will assume that Virtual World and Metaverse can be considered the same. A Virtual World is a simulation of a space, a representation in three dimensions of geographic accidents, cities and digital simulation of real surroundings. Second Life, for example, is a 3D environment that allows interactions between users, through a representation, which is de- nominated Avatar. The main characteristics of Virtual Worlds are their simple use, their col- laborative facilities or the attractiveness of the 3D features which provide a new and highly immersive sensation in the user. All the mentioned traits that have made of Virtual Worlds an interesting scenario to test innovative educational environments or to apply new data mining techniques. Furthermore, participants in a successful virtual world have a deep sense of presence in that world. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011Pap 1
  2. 2. In-depth 
Figure 1: The Metaverse Roadmap (Smart, Cascio and Paffendorf, 2007)A Metaverse is a much more complex concept. In recent years, lifelog; Bruce Sterling “spimes”), or of human users (a userthe term has evolved after Stephenson’s 1992 vision of an im- lifelog).mersive 3D Virtual World, in which aspects of the physical world • Virtual worlds. A digital version of narratives set in “oth-such as objects, actors, interfaces, and networks that construct er realities” – these first existed in text form through textand interact with virtual environments are included. based games and have evolved in many ways. Virtual world based games are goal-oriented and take place within limi-From 2007 to 2008, the Acceleration Studies Foundation (ASF) tations of the rules of the game. Social-focused virtual–a US-based not for profit with an international advisory panel– worlds provide various levels of freedom in terms of avatarand partners explored the virtual and 3D future of the World (the digital representation of a participant) customisationWide Web in a first-of-its-kind cross-industry public foresight and the ability to build and/or create.project, the Metaverse Roadmap (MVR). (Smart, Cascio, Paffen-dorf, 2007). • Mirror World. A literal representation of the real world in digital form. It attempts to map (or mirror) real-worldThe most important message that this picture is the four sce- structures, like geography, or the stock market, in 2D or 3Dnarios which emphasize different functions, types or sets of form. GIS systems are often 2D mirror worlds. Google Earthmetaverse technologies: is an example of a 3D mirror world. • Augmented Reality. Metaverse technologies enhance the Regarding the typology of metaverses and virtual worlds, the 3D external physical world for the individual, through the use space for training, from the standpoint of learning processes, of location-aware systems and interfaces that process and can be considered close to the constructs of what is called Web layer networked information on top of our everyday per- 2.0. As an example, Second Life (SL) can be analyzed from the ception of the world. perspective of a “theatrical metaphor” that develops (Tu, Blo- • Lifelog. A digitally stored and electronically accessible cher & Roberts, 2008) from the four dimensions included in this record of various aspects of the experience history (GPS, approach. An analysis of the main contributions of SL can be time, and audio, visual, etc.) of physical objects (an object drawn from the from the standpoint of the training process: ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011 Pap 2
  3. 3. In-depth • Cognitive / scripts: Training processes need to spy for SL • Persistence: the program continues to run whether any- to help students develop meaningful learning processes one is using it or not; it remembers the location of people immediately and to be able to develop these mental proc- and things, as well as the ownership of objects. esses in a social way. The Founding Features of Virtual Worlds (Castronova, 2003) • Social / actors: The avatars allow us to help students define their digital identity and assume a role within the world of SL. Teachers must also create their digital identity and as- 2. Enhancing the learning experience: sume the corresponding role in this world that represents Why virtual worlds matter? the training environment (Dwyer, Hiltz & Passerini, 2007; The use of metaverses for learning can change not just what is Tu et al., 2008). In the same way, standards of operation learnt but also significantly how we learn, it is for this reason and patterns of behaviour must be created in order to en- that it is important to consider all the implications of adopting sure the success of the teaching-learning process. them into the learning processes and to observe which are the • Networking / stages: The same communication tools that possible drawbacks and pitfalls of this integration. SL offers help create a climate suitable for communication Virtual worlds can be used to create very effective learning spac- at a time that will implement the various roles that the ac- es. Since they are generalized rather than contextual, they can tors (avatars) have taken during this training process and in reach all disciplines. The social aspects of virtual worlds become this 3D environment (Boyd & Ellison, 2007, Jin, 2010). extremely relevant for educational purposes. These worlds lend • Integration / acting: The educational process is basically themselves to role playing and scenario building, allowing learn- a communication process that takes place in a social envi- ers to temporarily assume identities and tasks without incurring ronment. For this reason the 2.0 tools, including SL, have real-world consequences. Both universities and industries have such potential in terms of promoting the learning process. recognised the learning possibilities available in metaverses and “Social acts that bring out identities, awareness, relation- 3D virtual worlds as spaces that offer both freedom and playful- ships, connections and interactions among and between ness to create and collaborate while learning. learners are necessary for interactive learning” (Thomans- sen & Rive, 2010). Finally, the principles of social networks Metaverses and 3D worlds in education; to design and develop space for university education need • provide a unique training and knowledge sharing environ- also to be taken into account. mentOn the other side, professor Edward Castronova affirms (2001; • provide great opportunities for group interaction and allow2005) that Virtual Worldss are 3-dimensional, digital environ- meta reflection to support activities and achieve learningments in which a great number of people interact one another outcomesby means of an avatar – a digital representation of self (Cas- • enhance collaboration and communicative skills.tronova, 2003). Therefore, the founding features of Virtual • allow learners to transfer learning from a learning contextWorlds are: to a real life context more readily. • Interactivity: it exists on one computer but can be ac- • encourage learners to gain experience working in flat or- cessed remotely (i.e. by an Internet connection) and simul- ganisational structures taneously by a large number of people, with the command • develop skills in building networks and communities of inputs of one person affecting the command results of practice other people. • promote problem-solving and negotiating skills • Physicality: people access the program through an inter- • help learners become goal-oriented and able to envisage face that simulates a firstperson physical environment on and work to achieve outcomes their computer screen; the environment is generally ruled by the natural laws of Earth and is characterized by scarcity • generate skills in producing knowledge of resources. • promote learning through simulations and role-playing ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011 Pap 3
  4. 4. In-depth • support creativity, exploration and the development for Representation: Young learners are acquiring high levels of identity through open ways for learning immersion and interactivity in virtual worlds. the represen- • develop skills and social experience in understanding other tation is the level of immersion and familiartity of interface cultures and people with the learning group and the world which has multiple effects upon learning. • offer unique possibilities for self-expression Simulations and virtual worlds engage students in high-level3. Frameworks for selecting and using cognitive thinkings such as interpreting, analyzing, discovering, metaverses and 3D worlds in practice evaluating and above all problem solving.The design, development and use of metaverses and immer-sive environments in education are closely interwoven. These 4. Metaverses and 3D Virtual Worlds ininteractive technologies which are becoming more and more the classroom: some key points for anparticipatory also have an effect not only in the way in which effective practicelearning activities are designed, developed and used in practice According to De Freitas (2006), there are a number of key pointsbut also on the whole processes of learning. In order to sup- that can be of help to educators, practitioners and other stake-port and to ensure that activity theory and pedagogical ap- holders when implementing their experiences using metaversesproaches are mapped well it is important to have a look at the and 3D virtual worlds:frameworks and approaches that have been developed so as tosuport the design and study of learning in metaverses and im- 1. Ensure there is an alignment between learning objectives,mersive worlds. Taking as departing point the framework model and the use of metaverses and 3D virtual worlds and as-addressed to practitioners provided by Freitas and Oliver (2006) sessment so that the most effective learning outcomeswhich picks up four generic principles: context, mode of repre- can take place.sentation, pedagogic approach used and learner specification. 2. Ensure that the learning activities which take place withinThis framework could become a starting point for practitiones the Metaverse are integrated with face-to-face learning.who wish to start using metaverses and virtual worlds in their 3. Provide opportunities for reflection by means of dialoguelearning practices. and discussion and feedback loops. Context: Contextual factors include where the metaverse 4. Place aspects of learning within immersive environments is used, the technical support that is needed, the require- so that learners can take control over and know how to ments. The context of the metaverse and its use is crucial to get engaged with them. the effectiveness of how it is used 5. Consider the level of immersion as part of the learning Pedagogic model: According to Mayes and Freitas (2004, design to ensure that learning is most effective. 2006) learning processes are supported by associative (in- 6. Design role-plays to allow students empathise and reflect structivist and often task-centred), cognitive (constructivist) upon situations from real life. and situated (learning in communities of practice) models 7. Develop realistic scenarios to allow transfer from rehears- of learning. The pedagogic model is notably important since al to real life contexts. simulation or gaming are not learning experiences in them- selves, rather they are integrated within a a set of activities 5. Metaverses and Virtual Worlds: Best or processes according to the selected approach, in this practices in Education sense, the role of debriefing is central in immersive worlds when used to pursue educational objectives through discus- Virtual worlds are not mere 3-D multi-player games. The immer- sion, reflection, etc... sive, rich experience that such environments offer combines many of the features of Web 2.0, such as group instant mes- Learner specification: integrates aspects such as age, stage, saging, voice chat, profiles and real-time social networking, and learning needs, level of digital literacy... a unique form of online social interaction that involves sharing various objects and creative collaboration on building and run- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011 Pap 4
  5. 5. In-depthning places and services in the virtual world (user-generated boards, and it has tested on the Smartboard, Activeboard, Inter-content). writer, Polyvision, Mimio, eBeam, and the Wiimote Whiteboard.We can make a classification about type of platforms and their Edusim is extendable allowing multiple classrooms to connectrelationship between Virtual Worlds and Education. their interactive whiteboards for collaborative learning session. Edusim as a concept seeks to model a new way to engage stu-Considering this, there are some examples of the educational dent through “immersive touch” by leveraging 3D virtual en-use of different Metaverses and Virtual Worlds server platforms: vironments on the interactive surface or classroom interactive whiteboard.5.1 3D toolkit for creating collaborative virtual Website: worlds server platforms Simul@: an education experience in OpenSim Open Open SIMUL@: “Evalu- OpenSim Wonderland Cobalt ation of a Simula- GPLv2 with tion Technological License the "Classpath" MIT License BSD License exception Environments for openwonderland. opencobalt. opensimulator. the Learning of Website org org org Transversal Com- Education petences at Uni- Alice 3 EduSim Simul@ projects versity”, with refer- 
ence EDU2008-01479, is a research project oriented to developIn these platforms many educational experiences and projects transversal competences of university virtual worlds have been carried out. We present you a case. Simul@ is a virtual world which blends in virtual learning envi-Alice 3 ronment (VLE and LMS) like Moodle, through the SLoodle mod- Alice is an innovative 3D ule. programming environment The main aim of this project is to prove the efficiency of the that makes it easy to create technological environments based on simulations in work-relat- an animation for telling a ed environments in the learning of transversal competences at story, playing an interactive University (concretely Self-management, and Teamwork) and game, or a video to share it is for this reason that experimentation with learning spaces
 on the web. Alice is a freely based on technological tools of simulation becomes essential:available teaching tool designed to be a student’s first exposure design practices in virtual object-oriented programming. It allows students to learnfundamental programming concepts in the context of creating This project is conducted by a multidisciplinary team coordi-animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects nated by the University Rovira i Virgili (Spain) also involving the(e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world University of Lleida (Spain), University of Hamburg (Germany),and students create a program to animate the objects. and the University of Minho (Portugal).Website: The main topic dealt in Simul@ is the analysis of the techno-EduSim logical environments based on simulations in work-related en- vironments in the learning of generic skills at university in anEdusim is a 3D multi-user virtual world platform and author- immersive toolkit intended for classroom interactive whiteboard (butequally powerful on the students laptop or desktop computers The experimentation with these spaces and tools for simula-!). The EduSim prototype is designed to provide educators and tion will allow students to improve competences and constructstudents with a way of linking 3D activities across multiple white knowledge. The information generated in the process will con- trast and account for their efficiency in the acquisition of trans- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011 Pap 5
  6. 6. In-depthversal competences. It also seeks to explore the affordances of ronment. It contains of native form backup of voice and interac-this kind of 3D virtual world and examine ways in which stu- tive virtual shale, the possibility to share and to publish onlinedents practice their future work in a simulated environment. documents and a scalable plan of rates according to the numberWebsite: of users, (to five users, free a month, like evaluation), beginning with a monthly plan that become a solution it ideal to initiate5.2 Companies dedicated to give services in business processes. Website: environments 3D Second Life Active Worlds The origin of, Second Life is social and of consumption, for thatThe veteran platform to Active Worlds is maintained and be- reason, Linden Lab, is creating derived platforms specializedsides, is being promoted for the educational environment, add- for business environment. The first project of this type, arisening this possibility to its already consolidated experience in the of the contribution they to Linden Lab and Rivers Run Red willsocial areas and of play. Not, on the other hand, for the business be called “Immersive Workspaces” and will present interestingarea. characteristics as to be able to share the desk of the computer,As advantages has that of the small size of its client and the interaction between and virtual environment and accessible,content creation facility, as well as the possibility to acquire a external database way web, modules for presentations sharedmore professional version, with the capacity to create a private and other tools oriented to environment of professional busi-environment protected. ness ( SL is perhaps the most popular virtual world platform in useOLIVE today, with an emphasis on social interaction. Second Life pro-On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE) is an applica- vides a virtual home for some of the world’s most prestigioustion belonging to FORTERRA, oriented to the exact reproduction universities and academic institutions. Virtual classrooms atof the real world in the referring thing to the physics, character- MIT allow for online collaboration, while Notre Dame makes useistics of the environment and avatars, including the NPC’s (Non of Second Life as a cost effective solution to distance learning.Player Character). It is centered in being a good flight simulator Website: environments of the real world with accuracy the physics, a tionspherical world and of the NPC.Immersive virtual environments built on SAIC’s OLIVE platform 5.3 MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Onlinehas developed specific applications for business environments, Role Playing Gamesof Health, Education and simulations for Defense and securityForces. Quest AtlantisWebsite: An educationally fo- cussed 3D virtual worldProtoSphere for kids. It uses a narra-The platform of ProtoSphere is oriented to the learning, admin- tive programming toolkitistration of the knowledge, global meetings, collaborative envi- to immerse children inronments and of formation, as well as simulations. meaningful inquiry tasks.Combines technologies Web 2,0, tools of social networks as 
 QA combines strategieswikis, and blogs with 3D immersive tools. used in the commercial gaming environment with lessons fromWebsite: educational research on learning and motivation.Qwaq Forums Website: environment Qwaq is developed explicitly as cooperativeplatform around the exchange of documents and business envi- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011 Pap 6
  7. 7. In-depthWorld of Warcraft WoW, is a massively multi- References player online role-playing Antonacci, D. M. & Modaress, N. (2008). Envisioning the game (MMORPG) by Blizzard educational possibilities of user-created virtual worlds.AACE Journal, 16(2), 115-126. Entertainment. With more than 11 million subscribers, Barab, S.A., Gresalfi, M.S., & Ingram-Goble, A. (2010). Transformational play: Using games to position person, content, WoW is currently the world’s and context. Educational Researcher, 39(7), 525-536. most-subscribed MMORPG. 
 WoW in school is a project Boyd, D.M., & Ellison, N.B. (2007) “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship”. Journal of Computer-Mediatedwhich uses the following over-arching themes: literacy and writ- Communication,Vol 13, No. 1, pp, mathematics, social interaction, 21st-Century technologyskills, Digital Citizenship, Leadership. Castronova E., (2001), “Virtual Worlds: A First-hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier”, CESifo workingWebsite: Paper, n. 618, December. Castronova E., (2003), “Theory of the Avatar”, CESifo Working6. Conclusions Papers n. 863, February.The potential of Metaverses and Virtual Worlds, such as Second Castronova E., (2005), Synthetic Worlds: the Business and theLife to provide a unique training and knowledge sharing envi- Culture of Online Games, University of Chicago Press, Chicagoronment, is enormous. Simulations and virtual worlds engage De Freitas, S. (2006) Learning in immersive worlds. A reviewstudents in high-level cognitive thinking such as interpreting, of game-based learning. The report is available at: whatwedo/programmes/elearning_innovation/eli_outcomesanalyzing, discovering, evaluating and above all problem solv-ing. There’s a need to further develop discourse that supports Dwyer, C., Hiltz, S. R., & Passerini, K. (2007). Trust andand ensures educational practices of quality that pursue learn- privacy concern within social networking sites: A comparison of Facebook and MySpace. Proceedings of AMCIS 2007, Keystone,ing outcomes. CO.There is a growing interest among practitioners and researchers Gisbert Cervera, M.; Cela-Ranilla, J.M.; Isus Barado, see which are their affordances and fully explore their poten- (2010) “Las simulaciones en entornos TIC como herramienta para la formación en competencias transversales de los estudiantestial as unique training and knowledge sharing learning environ- universitarios”. Teoría de la Educación. Educación y Cultura en laments. Virtual worlds are providing the opportunity to structure Sociedad de la Información,Vol 11, No. 1, pp 352-370remote learning in engaging, immersive ways. The current vir- Jin, Seung-A. Annie (2010) “Leveraging avatars in 3Dtual world technologies offer a range of capabilities that need to virtual environments (Second Life) for interactive learning: thebe further deepened into. moderating role of the behavioral activation system vs. behavioral inhibition system and the mediating role of enjoyment”, InteractiveThe use of metaverses and 3D virtual worlds requires to intro- Learning Environments, First published on: 22 January 2010duce innovative approaches to school education. In order to Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood,support and to ensure that activity theory and pedagogical ap- K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The Newproaches are mapped well it is important to have a look at the Media Consortium.frameworks and approaches that have been developed so as to Livingstone, D.; Kemp, J., (2008). “Integrating Web-Basedsupport the design and study of learning in metaverses and im- and 3D Learning Environments: Second Life Meets Moodle”.mersive worlds and that take into account aspects such context, UPGRADE (European Journal for the Informatics Professional) 9 (3): 8–14.representation, pedagogic model and the learner’s needs. Livingstone, D; Kemp, J. (2006) Proceedings of the First Second Life Education Workshop, Part of the 2006 Second Life Community Convention, August 18th-20th 2006, Fort Mason Centre, San Francisco, Ca ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011 Pap 7
  8. 8. In-depthMayes, T. and De Freitas, S. (2004). Review of e-learningtheories, frameworks and models. JISC e- learning models studyreport. London. The Joint Information Systems Committee.Mayes, T. and De Freitas, S. (2006). Learning and e-learning:the role of theory. In H. Beetham and R. Sharpe (Eds), RethinkingPedagogy in the Digital Age. London. Routledge.Minocha, Shailey and Reeves, Ahmad John (2010) “Designof learning spaces in 3D virtual worlds: an empirical investigationof Second Life”, Learning, Media and Technology,Vol 35, No. 2, pp111-137Smart, J.M., Cascio, J. and Paffendorf, J. (2007), MetaverseRoadmap Overview.Thomassen, Aukje and Rive, Pete (2010). “How to enableknowledge exchange in Second Life in design education?”,Learning, Media and Technology,Vol 35, No. 2, pp 155-169Tu, Chih-Hsiung, Blocher, Michael and Roberts, Gayle(2008) “Constructs for Web 2.0 learning environments: a theatricalmetaphor”, Educational Media International,Vol 45, No. 4, pp 253-269. Discussion of how World of Warcraft can be used as a learningenvironment in education. Presented at the American EducationalStudies Association, October, 2007. Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers Copyrights ISSN: 1887-1542 The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject Publisher: to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. 3.0 Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast pro- Postal address: c/Muntaner 262, 3r, 08021 Barcelona (Spain) vided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Phone: +34 933 670 400 Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. Email: The full licence can be consulted on Internet: es/by-nc-nd/3.0/ ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 25 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 25 • July 2011Pap 8