Language Learning in MUVEs: Chapt 15 Veletsianos

November 17, 2010

“Technical, Pedagogical, and Cultural Considerations for Language Learning in MUVEs”. The authors of this chapter are Charles Xiaoxue Wang, Brendan Calandra, & Youngjoo Yi
(Chapter 15)

The authors describe a study of the Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) “Second Life” used in a facilitated manner to connect students in China and the US for the purpose of language learning. In this environment, users create a personal avatar which can move around through the virtual classes, meeting spaces, shops, recreational areas etc. that are part of the online environment. One’s avator can chat via text, use non-verbal gestures and receive documents. Most importantly for this project, VoIP allows users to talk (verbally) to each other in real time.

The integration of skills such as speaking and writing is important here, as the study indicates that students could draw on their stronger skill to support the weaker one. At the onset, specific tasks were assigned and facilitation was incorporated to ensure that distractions (which can be plentiful in this environment) didn’t get in the way.

The authors are very excited about the potential of this approach. There are many features of MUVEs that seem ideally suited to language learning and lots of ideas to be explored in the future.


This is from the “Elizabeth Tweets” series of chapter-by-chapter blog posts related to the 2010 book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version).

Using Social Media to Create a Place that Supports Communication (Chapt 14)

November 10, 2010

Chapter 14 in the Veletsianos book is titled “Using Social Media to Create a Place that Supports Communication” and is authored by Rita Kop: (Chapter 14)

Kop’s chapter describes a project in South Wales, UK, built around distance learning with extensive use of Web 2.0 tools. The intention was to explore a model where increased learner control and shared information are key components. Blogs, wikis, chat, pod and video-casts were all used in the interactive environment that was created for this undergraduate Higher Education Certificate program, taught mainly at a distance. Tutors, learning technologists and students were all interviewed as part of the evaluation of the project. Activities and interactions (blog use, wikis, chat etc.) were monitored, analyzed and coded.

Conclusions of the analysis revealed that the students responded well to “spur of the moment” videos from their tutors, found wikis to be less useful for collaborative knowledge creation than would be expected (the author sees this as possibly because the concept of collaborative knowledge was just not very familiar and the asynchronous nature did now help with time management issues that the students were having), and found chat to be a good way to create a sense of togetherness. (p. 279). For all tools, the role of the tutor was seen as working best when it was supportive and nurturing, while still allowing semi-autonomous learning. The ideal is that semi-autonomous learning is a bridge that will one day lead to fully self-directed learning.

Having just concluded co-instructing a course that attempted to incorporate some of the ideas in this chapter, I would agree that finding the right balance as an instructor can be a challenge. For any student new to online learning, there seems to often be an initial sense of uncertainty at being left on one’s own. Teamwork very early in the experience is a good motivator, and tools like chat, forums and wikis definitely do create a “place” for this to happen. I’m not sure if the UK project described encouraged the collaborative writers to select a person to take the role of editor. My personal experience is that this, rotating from assignment to assignment, can really help with the time management issues. I’ve seen teams start to self-manage in an amazingly quick period of time, but again, there is a need for subtle facilitation and being ready to step in if things are not happening as they should be. In some ways, (again in my own personal experience) the most effective “instruction” in this model is often completely invisible to the students much of the time.


This is from the “Elizabeth Tweets” series of chapter-by-chapter blog posts related to the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version).

New Communications Options: A Renaissance in Videoconference Use: Chapter 13 in Veletsianos

November 1, 2010

So, I went through the whole month of October without blogging. Having a blog-free month was not a planned decision or anything like that. – it’s just one of those things that happened.

And now it’s time to move forward with Chapter 13 in the Veletsianos book. authored by Caladine, Andres, Tynan, Smyth and Vale. (Chapter 13) in the Veletsianos (ed.) book.

Videoconferencing has been around for a while but it hadn’t always found its way into effective distance education experiences, for a range of reasons that are described by these authors (cost, bandwidth issues and unreliability of early systems are some of the obvious factors). The current “renaissance” described in this chapter refers to newer tools (Skype, etc.) that provide easy and inexpensive options.

Challenges for distance education arise with these options though. In particular, with respect to pedagogy the authors state “a repeating dilemma will arise with each new wave of technology: should this be used for formal education or is it a personal/social tool better left in the realm of informal communication?” (p. 254)

The chapter discusses how videoconference has “frequently copied typical lecture-hall formats of didactic information delivery rather than exploring approaches that are interactive and oriented towards knowledge construction” (p. 254) and recommend that more constructivist activities be considered as part of the use of videoconference for education to reduce isolation and personalize learning. To do so, it will be necessary to move away from the previous perception, held by many, that videoconferencing is about ‘transmission’.

The chapter is also a source of technical information about videoconference types and how to plan for them.


This is from the “Elizabeth Tweets” series of chapter-by-chapter blog posts related to the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version).