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Virtual worlds (VWs) are providing welcome opportunities for the development of innovative curricula for tertiary educators. These environments potentially allow them to give their students authentic learning experiences that resemble real life tasks and scenarios. In addition, virtual worlds are extremely useful when training students to perform tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to perform in real life (Adams, Klowden, & Hannaford, 2001). Well-designed simulations implemented in these environments can provide risk-averse and cost-effective simulations of authentic contexts that can facilitate optimal learning, especially when enhanced with the capability for tactile precision and haptic feedback.
This chapter, while acknowledging the enormous potential of virtual worlds for higher education, will investigate the range of challenges also associated with implementing these environments into curricula. These include the use of appropriate pedagogical models and the large learning curve for novice users. The chapter will conclude with a discussion of how these challenges can be mitigated, taking into account the latest technical developments in virtual worlds and associated hardware.