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Title: A basis for learning with desktop virtual environments
Author: Cronin, Paul
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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An important question in current educational research concerns the effectiveness of using virtual environments (VE's) as pedagogical tools. To date no clear consensus has been reached. This is partly due to the infancy of the technology and the disparate nature of virtual environments. In this thesis a particular class of virtual environment: image-based desktop VE's, is evaluated in the context of teaching about a geology field-trip. The thesis employs two levels of description: one theoretical and the other practical. On the theoretical level the objective is to demonstrate the effectiveness of desktop virtual learning environments for teaching and learning. Thus, a framework for learning in desktop VE's is proposed. This contains three elements: desktop virtual environments, spatial information and an eclectic pedagogical approach to learning. These elements interact with each other through three independence mechanisms: spatialisation of learning, the affordance of virtual environments for spatial information and the reification of learning. Finally these elements and mechanisms are examined through the individual cognitive differences among individuals. Using research from spatial cognition, educational psychology and virtual environments, six experiments evaluate several hypotheses from the framework. The outcome of this research supports most aspects of the framework. The strongest features include the affordances of virtual environments for spatial information and elements of an eclectic pedagogical approach. Most interesting however are the interactive effects of individual differences on learning. The practical level of description charts the development, design, application and evaluation of a virtual learning environment. This begins with the earliest consultations into user needs and educational objectives for the virtual environment. Evaluating and improving the usability of this environment forms the basis for the experiments described throughout the thesis. The practical objective is therefore to enhance the pedagogical effectiveness of a virtual learning environment by refining and evaluating its design.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available