Photo Credit: Daily Galaxy
Virtual worlds can provide youths exclusive environments that can help them learn and negotiate skills which are used in real world settings, like organisational and cognitive skills, a new study has revealed.
Academics on the Inter-Life project developed 3D 'Virtual Worlds' (private islands) to act as informal communities that allow young people to interact in shared activities using avatars. The avatars are three-dimensional characters controlled by the participants.
Virtual Worlds offer the possibility of realistic, interactive environments that can go beyond the formal curriculum.
The project involved young people undertaking creative activities like film making and photography, and encouraged them to undertake project activities with the virtual environments.
The students had to learn to cope with many scenarios in their island, as well as participate in the online communities over several months.
Throughout the project, the researchers encouraged new forms of communication, including those used in online gaming.
"We demonstrated that you can plan activities with kids and get them working in 3D worlds with commitment, energy and emotional involvement, over a significant period of time," said lead researcher, Professor Victor Lally.
"It's a highly engaging medium that could have a major impact in extending education and training beyond geographical locations."
"3D worlds seem to do this in a much more powerful way than many other social tools currently available on the internet. When appropriately configured, this virtual environment can offer safe spaces to experience new learning opportunities that seemed unfeasible only 15 years ago."
The findings represent an early opportunity to assess the social and emotional impact of 3D virtual worlds. So far, there has been little in depth research into how emotions, social activities and thinking processes in this area can work together to help young people learn.
"This kind of 3D technology has many potential applications wherever young people and adults wish to work together on intensive tasks."
"It could be used to simulate training environments, retail contexts and interview situations - among many other possibilities. These virtual worlds have potential uses in education, and also a wide range of other social and academic applications," he added.