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REF NO.: 155

SUBJECT: National award recognizes value of virtual world technology in teaching and learning
DATE: May 13, 2009

Memorial University’s presence was felt once again at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) conference, winning a national award for the integration of virtual world technology in a course. The winning team received the award at the 2009 CNIE awards banquet held on Tuesday, May 12.
Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT), in partnership with Dr. David Murrin, adjunct professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and director of R&D/senior engineering specialist at IMV Projects Atlantic in St. John’s, took away the 2009 CNIE award for excellence and innovation in the use of technology for learning and teaching.
The project involved the application of Second Life, an online virtual world, as a teaching and learning tool in Engineering 4061: Marine Production Management. DELT’s Second Life team, comprised of Marlene Brooks, Catherine Wicks, Jamie Chang and Donna Downey, worked in partnership with Dr. Murrin and his engineering students to incorporate classroom theories and principles into a simulated, immersive environment where students could enact the role of an engineer, and design and construct their own shipyard.
“I was interested in using 3D virtual world technology in my class to better engage students in their learning and generate excitement about the course content,” said Dr. Murrin. “I wanted students to experience and realize the scale of real-life shipyards, and gain a deeper understanding about the importance of material flow and the positioning of materials when building something of such enormity.” 
“We were excited to provide the support and expertise needed to integrate this technology into the course,” added Ms. Brooks, who led the Second Life team at DELT. “It’s very rewarding to collaborate on work that both enhances the students’ learning experience and gets recognized by our peers.”
Students were provided with space on one of Memorial University’s islands in Second Life to build a shipyard with given parameters that would be capable of building three vessels in a year. Using this virtual world, students could meet online and walk through the shipyard to evaluate the functionality and suitability of what they had built. If flaws were discovered, students could then go back to redesign and rebuild to make it more effective.
Ann Marie Vaughan, director of DELT, is thrilled with the acknowledgement and credits the win to the collaborative effort of both partners.
“The insight and creativity of the team on this project were exemplary,” she said, “and it’s inspiring to work with such talented faculty, staff and students. This is our second CNIE award for educational technology in as many years, which speaks volumes about Memorial’s leadership when it comes to exploring and enhancing the way education is delivered, for the benefit of both students and faculty.”
Second Life can benefit students’ learning by providing increased interaction with peers, engagement with course content, and reflection on theory in relation to practice. It can also accommodate a variety of learning styles and promote active learning, independence of thought and problem solving.
For the students in Engineering 4061, their level of engagement enhanced their overall performance in the course, in comparison to students who had taken the course before the integration of Second Life. The use of virtual world technology provided these students with a unique opportunity for experiential learning, which will be of great value for those who go to work on real life shipyards, or other large-scale projects.
DELT offers its expertise and support to Memorial’s faculty in their use of 3D virtual world technologies such as Second Life. The goal is to create and facilitate new, innovative environments for teaching and learning that meet the needs of today’s learners, and enhance pedagogical use of these technologies.
 

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