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Title: The affordances of virtual world technologies to empower the visualisation of complex theory concepts in computer science : enhancing success and experience in higher education
Author: Attallah, B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 2470
Awarding Body: University of the West of England, Bristol
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
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This research targeted complex abstract concepts in Computer Science and focused on bringing about the visualisation of such concepts using virtual world technologies. The research proposed the use of virtual world elements to support the understanding and learning of six computer science subjects having difficult theory concepts at the Higher Education level. The researcher decided to choose Higher Education as the platform for this research, due to the significant need to understand and learn complex abstract concepts of Computer Science at this level. The framework of the research is Higher Education within Further Education, which was chosen for its challenging nature with regards to students’ background and the level of additional support required for their success. The Second Life virtual world was selected and utilised to build purposely designed and scripted scenarios to empower the visualisation of complex theory concepts of the selected computer science subjects. These scenarios were embedded, in a predetermined order, within the curriculum delivery of a number of selected Computer Science modules from a Foundation Degree and a BSc (Hons) in Computing Programmes in a FE college in England. The research activities were carried out in two academic years, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014, in order to involve more students and obtain additional data to effectively, and more accurately, answer the research questions. The research aimed at identifying the extent to which using virtual world technologies to visualise difficult theory concepts in Computer Science subjects, might enhance students' learning and achievement. The research outcomes provided positive answers to the four research questions, which pursued the extent to which the visualisation of such concepts using Second life virtual world might, 1) facilitate students’ understanding of the complex abstract concepts in their HE Computer Science subjects, 2) increase students’ engagement in their HE Computer Science sessions, 3) enhance affective quality (to include elements such as appeal, enjoyment, interest and appreciation), and 4) improve student’s achievement (i.e. grades) in the targeted modules. In answer to these questions, the research outcomes showed that subject difficulty was reduced by 25% and around three quarters of students acknowledged enhanced learning in the virtual environment. Seventy percent of students acknowledged becoming more engaged in their study sessions that were carried out in virtual worlds, and more than three quarters of students acknowledged enhanced affective quality. Finally, around 85% of the modules covered by the research witnessed improved students’ achievement (i.e. higher grades). The researcher explained potential use, advantages and limitations of employing Second Life in Higher Education in general and HE Computer Science in particular, and provided recommendations to academic institutions that are interested in applying such virtual world technologies to overcome the challenges involved.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available