Towards a Generalised Pedagogical Framework for Creating Mixed-Mode Role-Play in a 3D Virtual Environment

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Role-play has proved itself to be an effective teaching method, and role-play within a virtual environment has been found to be more especially so. Thus, there have been many studies concerned with role-play and computer simulation used together; however, up to this point, limitations may still be found with respect to the work which has been done in this area. Some of the major outstanding problems associated with creating virtual environments for learning are: finding the simplest way to model and represent abstract concepts as 3D objects; and implementing the students’ interactions - with each other, with their instructor, and with the represented objects. Also, many projects have focused on only one pedagogical topic. My vision is to introduce a generalized method that facilitates the construction of learning scenarios and renders them as message-passing role-play activities. Then, these activities could be deployed in a virtual environment (VE) in order to help students to become more immersed in the learning process. Each such activity is to be constructed by humanizing a ‘non-human’ object, whereby the students embody and imitate an (often abstract) object which is part of a technological system and which occurs in a virtual world. This can lead to many benefits, such as being able to better support the students’ ability to imagine and visualize such objects, making them more engaged with their learning, enhancing their conceptual understanding, strengthening their reasoning when solving problems related to the topic area, and reinvigorating their interest in learning. This research presents an evaluation of an approach for the creation of a role-play simulation in a role-play supporting virtual environment, which harnesses the advantages of 3D virtual environments in an effective way - in order to benefit the students’ learning in terms of improving their understanding of abstract concepts. Moreover, this approach is generalized and thus extends the previous studies by offering a system that can be applied to a wide range of topics - that involve message-passing role-play scenarios. The approach is presented within a conceptual pedagogical framework that is supported by an analysis of the findings and results from experiments that were conducted in order to validate the framework from both the learning and technical perspectives.