With the work of Nuket Nowlan and Peggy Hartwick, Carleton University is leading the way in using 3D Virtual Learning Environments (3DVLE) in university courses.
Nowlan, an Information Technology (Digital Media) PhD candidate, and Hartwick, a a PhD candidate in the Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies program are both researching the potential of 3DVLEs for teaching languages.
Last year, three courses in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies (SLALS) used 3DVLEs as a way for students to practice speaking different languages.
“Not only have we developed and proven practical, effective ways of using 3DVLEs in academic settings but we are also serving enterprises using this technology to offer training,” said Nowlan.
Nowlan is also the President and Founder of 3D Virtual Crafting (3DVC) – a novel corporation that facilitates character development and education via interactive virtual environments.
The company has projects that involve simulations of archaeological sites, crime scenes, domestic violence, construction site safety and team building.
Nowlan and Hartwick met through Dr. Ali Arya, an Associate Professor of Interactive Multimedia, during a pilot for language teaching in a 3DVLE.
“We believe that 3DVLEs are one of the cheapest ways to offer experiences where learners can experiment with ideas, practice different roles, and obtain difficult skills,” said Nowlan.
The current challenges that are arising with 3DVLEs are the lack of personalized support and assessment within the worlds. With her PhD research, Nowlan hopes to address these challenges.
“We believe that if we can define learning metrics in instrument simulations, serious games, and active learning exercises, and measure these metrics while the student is going through the learning activity, we can provide ongoing, individualized support and increase the learning gain for all,” said Nowlan.
Hartwick is also contributing to this research from a linguistics perspective, and has been teaching English as a Second Language Academic (ESLA) for over 10 years.
“I began experimenting with technology as a tool to support, facilitate, and enhance the student learning experience,” said Hartwick regarding her interest in 3DVLEs.
Hartwick believes that technology plays a pivotal role in engaging students at some level, and has been motivated to justify that belief with theoretical frameworks through her PhD research.
Hartwick appreciates the flexibility in her program, as well as the support of her committee members, which allows her to trailblaze through a huge area of untapped research opportunities.
“I have an external committee member who is an expert in the area of 3DVLEs, while the other members are experts in assessment, analysis, second language acquisition, and learning design,” said Hartwick.
“Nuket and I have been so fortunate at Carleton. Many people have believed in us and have given us the opportunities to push forward with our sometimes seemingly crazy ideas.”
Nowlan credits the Information Technology PhD program with providing constant stimulation and learning.
“I love learning every day and being challenged with difficult questions and being at my best continuously. This program offer me all of that.”
It is an exciting time for 3DVLEs and other online learning spaces, and the next step for Nowlan and Hartwick will be to share their findings with the academic community.
–Written by Mitch Jackson
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