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Volume 23 / Issue 2

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A Cost-Effective Approach for Procedural Training in Virtual Worlds

Mariano Rico (Department of Artificial Intelligence, UPM, Spain)

Jaime Ramírez (School of Computer Engineering, UPM, Spain)

Diego Riofrío-Luzcando (School of Computer Engineering, UPM, Spain)

Marta Berrocal-Lobo (CBGP, INIA, School of Forestry Engineering and Natural Resources, UPM, Spain)

Abstract: Virtual worlds are one of the most promising and interesting lines of research and development in e-learning. Also, the recent maturity of 3D virtual world platforms like Second Life or OpenSimulator has made it possible to deploy such systems at a low cost in schools, colleges or companies. Therefore, these virtual world platforms have enabled the development of cost-effective virtual laboratories. However, there are few empirical studies to support the educational value of Virtual Worlds for Procedural Training (VWPT), especially when they are equipped with automatic tutors. In this paper we present an empirical study that provides evidence in favor of the educational value of virtual worlds. To be precise, we describe the evaluation of a biotechnology VWPT implemented on top of OpenSimulator. We have implemented an automatic tutor within this virtual laboratory in order to supervise and guide students during task practice. This tutor is configurable and can be reused in different VWPTs. This facilitates the development of VWPTs. This virtual laboratory has been evaluated by domain experts (university professors) and students over a three-year period as part of a university course. The analysis of this evaluation has shown good results for usability, user satisfaction and perceived educational utility. It has also served to demonstrate that the virtual laboratory is resilient and reliable. This supports the applied technical approach.

Keywords: OpenSimulator, biology and genetics, computer-assisted instruction, procedural training, virtual realities, virtual worlds

Categories: I.3.7, J.0, K.3.1, L.2.3, L.2.7, L.3.0, L.3.6, L.5.0