Dr Colin Allison – University of St Andrews
The 3D Web and Open Learning: Applications and Challenges
The educational potential of 3D multi-user virtual worlds for creating innovative learning environments is evidenced by a growing number of case studies, publications, workshops and conferences on the topic; and most importantly, the popularity of virtual worlds with students, school pupils and the public at large. Open source virtual world software is now being regarded as the vanguard of the 3D Web. The existing 2D Web has enabled major advances in many aspects of online learning such as anytime/anywhere access, downloadable learning objects, online shared learning environments, a global reach and, as MOOCs have recently demonstrated a very significant scalability of courses which use a small number of well understood types of online learning resources. To realize the potential of immersive education and make the 3D Web as easy to access and use as the 2D Web, there are several challenges to overcome. These include suitable tools for content creation, programmability, support for the management of immersive environments in educational scenarios, initial download times on arrival, erratic accessibility due to firewalls, integration with the 2D Web, and the complexity of certain user interfaces. Scalability also remains a major challenge. Whereas in the case of MOOCs it is feasible to set up web sites that cope with tens of thousands of users downloading learning materials, the highly interactive, multi-user nature of virtual worlds is far more demanding and supporting even a hundred users in the same region at the same time is considered an achievement.
The talk will initially illustrate the use of this prototype 3D Web in the domains of STEM education and Cultural Heritage. It will then discuss appropriate service models for different scenarios including personal use, exhibition use and global deployment. With comparison to the 2D Web it can be shown how the quality of experience for online users relates to the network quality of service, the number of concurrent users and the capabilities of the servers and clients.
School of Computing Science & Digital Media, Robert Gordon University, St Andrew Street, Aberdeen, Lecture Room C48, 14:10 – 15:10.