A Pilot Implementation of an Immersive Online 3D Environment for Collaboration Among Computing Students in a Scottish University

Jim Scullion, Thomas Hainey, Mark Stansfield, Thomas Connolly

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


It has been suggested in the literature that Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) and other virtual worlds can offer an environment in which informal learning by participants can succeed through communication and collaboration (Steinkuehler, 2004; Shaffer et al., 2004; Childress & Braswell 2006; Gee 2007, 2008; Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008; Harteveld & Bekebrede, 2010; Wehner et al., 2011). It has further been suggested that there would be value in investigating the extent to which the processes and principles underpinning this informal learning can be translated to a formal learning context (Connolly & Stansfield, 2006; Wubbels, 2007; Oliver & Carr, 2009; Cerone & Sowe, 2010). There is, however, a dearth of empirical evidence in this area (de Freitas, 2007; Connolly et al., 2007; Wouters et al., 2009). This paper reports a pilot of the use of an immersive online 3D environment, UNITE, within Scottish Higher Education. The aim of the pilot was to investigate the pedagogical value and technical feasibility of using the UNITE environment to enhance collaboration and communication among tertiary students of Computing. The UNITE virtual environment was constructed using Open Wonderland, an open source toolkit for creating 3D virtual worlds. Eight students in the final year of a Scottish four-year undergraduate honours degree participated. Qualitative data were obtained from participants by means of a focus group discussion. The findings of this pilot study suggest that participants: consider the technical stability of the platform to be of high importance; consider being represented by an avatar to be a positive experience; suggest that virtual worlds should be more widely used in formal education; found learning within a 3D virtual space to be of value both in developing collaboration and communication skills and in building confidence; and regard both voice and text communication functionality as being of high importance in a virtual space.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International Ltd
Number of pages451
ISBN (Print)9781908272706
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • game-based learning
  • collaborative learning
  • virtual learning community
  • virtual worlds


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