Navigation and wayfinding in learning spaces in 3D virtual worlds

Minocha, Shailey and Hardy, Christopher (2016). Navigation and wayfinding in learning spaces in 3D virtual worlds. In: Gregory, Sue; Lee, Mark J. W.; Dalgarno, Barney and Tynan, Belinda eds. Learning in Virtual Worlds: Research and Applications. Part of the "Issues in Distance Education" series (Series Editor: Terry Anderson, Athabasca University, Canada). Athabasca University Press, pp. 3–41.



There is a lack of published research on the design guidelines of learning spaces in virtual worlds. Therefore, when institutions aspire to create learning spaces in Second Life, there are few studies or guidelines to inform them except for individual case studies. The Design of Learning Spaces in 3D Virtual Environments (DELVE) project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee in the UK, was one of the first initiatives that identified through empirical investigations the usability problems associated with learning spaces in virtual worlds and the potential impact on student experience. The findings of the DELVE project revealed that applying architectural principles of real-world designs to virtual worlds may not be sufficient. In fact, design principles from urban planning, Human–Computer Interaction (HCI), web usability, geography, and psychology influence the design of learning spaces in virtual worlds.

In DELVE, the researchers derived several usability guidelines: form should follow function, that is, that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose; use real-world metaphors such as mailboxes for students to leave messages, or search pods similar to real-world information kiosks; consider realism for familiarity and comfort; design for storytelling; or design to orient the user at the landing point, etc. However, the investigations in DELVE identified that the key usability problems experienced by users in 3D learning spaces are related to navigation and wayfinding.

In this chapter, we report on the Navigation and Wayfinding (NAVY) project which builds on the findings of the DELVE project. As the most commonly used virtual world for education, Second Life was the logical choice for conducting the NAVY project research. Based upon empirical investigations of a number of islands in Second Life (an island is a space which is analogous to a website in a 2D environment) involving user-based studies, heuristic evaluations, and iterative reviews of the heuristics by usability experts, we have derived over 200 guidelines for the design of learning spaces in virtual worlds.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions