Web3D for Higher Education: Real potential or just an illusion? | Dr. Hanan Gazit Lecture at The 6th Annual MEITAL National Conference 6th August 2008

I will present Web3D for Higher Education: Real potential or just an illusion?
at the coming Inter-University Center for e-Learning (IUCEL), 6th Annual MEITAL National Conference, on 6th of August 2008, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

By: Dr. Hanan Gazit

Persentation Introduction
Massively Multiplayer On-line Games (MMOGs), social networked, and three-dimensional virtual worlds (3D), are merging to form the Web3D. The Association of Virtual Worlds recently published a guide which contains over 250 3D virtual worlds operating or currently under development (AVW, 2008), and Forrester Research recent forecast stated that "Web3D will evolve during the next five to seven years from an immature emerging market to a standards-based, interoperable global environment", urging its clients to start experimenting with Web3D despite the infancy of the medium (Driver et al., 2008). My presentation will focus on the Web3D potential for higher education.

The Academia is catching up with the current trend of the industry, as major high tech companies such as IBM, Intel and Sun Micro Systems, to name a few, are developing programs in SL (Gronstedt, 2007). Over 200 colleges and universities around the world are exploring the educational potential of SL (Kelton, 2007). For example, Harvard Law School's CyberOne uses SL for collaborative public law learning (Nesson & Nesson, to appear), while Dubai's Women College uses SL for teaching healthcare and virtual commerce, as well as for cultural exchanges with other academic institutes. Moreover, digital games and virtual worlds can serve as a cognitive bridge between concrete experiences and scientific concepts, enabling students to cope with complex problem solving and high level thinking skills (Dede et al., 2005; Gazit, 2008). Likewise, de Freitas (2006) argued that game-based learning may provide new opportunities for reassessing how people learn and for supporting the development of new immersive spaces, where learners may produce their own materials, share learning experiences and practice skills of the real-world. However, at the same time de Freitas (2006) pointed out the need for conducting empirical studies on game based learning and their potential use in education.

Is it just an illusion?

A careful examination of the Web3D's is needed when considering its use for higher education. First, only a small number of administrators and instructors are experienced in virtual worlds and many others might doubt their academic relevance (Graetz, 2006). Second, setting up a Web3D entity, such as a SL Island, is very time-consuming. Hence, the possibility should be examined to see if the learning outcome can be achieved by using 2D regular websites or alternative 2.O platforms. Third, manipulating 3D objects and orienting in a 3D world can be difficult and frustrating (Gazit et al., 2006; BurigatCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Authorand & Chittaro, 2007). Moreover, current technical problems and rendering issues, system sluggishness, and crashes that should be taken into account. Berge (2008) argues that "until educators figure out what to do in 3D virtual environments that cannot be more easily done in real life…educators in these virtual metaverses are relying on novelty and social presence to carry the day" (ibid, p. 30-31).

The question of whether the Web3D has a real educational value or is it just an illusion is waiting to unfold, but there is no doubt about the need for a coherent conceptual framework for studying its advantages and limitations.


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Dede, C., Clarke, J., Ketelhut, D. J., Nelson, B., & Bowman, C. (2005). Students’ motivation and learning of Science in a Multi-User Virtual Environment. Presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA), (April 2005), (pp.11-15), Montreal, Canada.

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Gazit, E. (2008). A window on digital games interactions in home settings. In: Ferdig, R. E (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education, (Vol 1, pp.127-145). IGI Global Press.

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About The 6th Annual MEITAL National Conference

The MEITAL 2008 conference, in memory of the late Prof. Nechemia Levzion, will take place this year at the University of Haifa on Wednesday, August 6th, 2008. The conference will focus on the achievements and challenges in e-learning in higher education and on future development avenues.
The conference is a multi-participant, national gathering that is held once a year at one of the academic institutions that are members of MEITAL. The conference comprises a unique experience for a formal and informal professional meeting of all those involved in e-learning and e-teaching in higher education. It will include lectures dealing with the integration of e-learning in academic teaching in Israel, an exhibition of posters and presentations, round tables covering various areas of interest and specialization, workshops and more. The conference will provide diverse opportunities for social and professional encounters in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. Members of the academic staff and others interested in e-learning in higher education institutions in Israel are invited to participate!

The conference's Program Committee is headed by Dr. Dani Ben-Zvi,
Head of the e-learning Center at the University of Haifa.

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