3-D Virtual Learning Environment

The term, virtual learning environment (VLE), has been defined broadly as “a system for delivering learning materials to students via the web”. However, for the purpose of this chapter, virtual learning environments will refer to learning that occurs in three-dimensional (3-D) VLEs such as Second Life (SL). Ahem and Wink (2010) described SL as an “Internet-based, multiplayer virtual world designed by its residents, called avatars”.

A virtual learning environment consists of multiple strategies that can include a computer- or Internet-based platform. It may be found with an online classroom, or interactive, asynchronous learning environments, such as Second Life or Shadow Health, which are an enhancement to the computer- and Internet-based platforms. Students using avatars are immersed in role-playing, or situational learning activities, that bring to life a circumstance that requires a response from the student. Students can role-play “in world” with Second Life, where a personal avatar is created and is capable of interacting with specific areas of the environment or other avatars. Shadow Health, creator of Digital Clinical Experiences, includes a natural language conversation engine with both speech-to-text and typing options through which the Digital Standardized Patient responds verbally to key questions that are asked by the student. At this point in time, these avatars have the capability of responding to more than 300,000 questions. Technologies such as this afford students the opportunity to interview and conduct a physical assessment of a virtual patient, while learning to formulate and organize assessment questions, respond empathetically, and provide patient education

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3-D virtual learning environments are a form of multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs), and are especially useful when a teacher needs to design safe learning experiences that meet specific objectives . As with other forms of simulations, students can make mistakes, receive formative feedback, and improve their decision making without risking a patient’s health or life.

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