Experimentation not simulation: Learning about physics in the virtual world

Peachey, Anna; Withnail, Greg and Braithwaite, N St.J (2012). Experimentation not simulation: Learning about physics in the virtual world. In: The Second Global Conference on Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds, 12-13 Mar 2012, Prague, Czech Republic.

URL: http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/at-the-interface...


This paper reports on the evaluation of a study to explore the use of the virtual world Second LifeTM for conducting real physics experiments, completed as a pilot activity for a new course development at The Open University. All HEIs within the UK are currently engaged in some level of activity in virtual worlds. However in such a young field there is a relatively scarce literature, and so small scale pilot projects are vital for exploring the pedagogical framework as well as the practical tools for supporting specific subjects within such an immersive environment. This study gave ten participants access to a small range of tools that enabled them to create experiments to explore the physics of Second Life using a cognitive learning approach. Data on their inworld activity was collected and compared against their input to a survey at the conclusion of the two-week study period. These results were triangulated using detailed follow up interviews with a smaller sample of two participants. The research found that students look for context and indicators of stability and reassurance during the experience. The majority of respondents indicated that they would be happy to participate in course-embedded Second Life activities of this type, albeit also expressing a range of reservations, providing valuable feedback for further development of the pilot tools and module framework.

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