Dickey, M. D. (2005). Three-dimensional virtual worlds and distance learning: Two case
studies of active worlds as a medium for distance education. British Journal of
Educational Technology, 36(3), 439-451.
Dickey looks at the use of 3D virtual learning environments for the structure of an entire class. This article focuses on two different classes built in this manner. One of the courses was asynchronous where students had weekly assignments and group tasks. While students could meet synchronously for their group work, the remainder of the work was completed on their own and when they were able to log into the program. The second course was delivered synchronously. In this course, students met at the same time every week to learn and complete assignments. The courses were both set up as worlds where different activities and assignments were housed in different parts of the 3D learning environment.
This article provides a look at two different ways for instructors to set up courses in a 3D learning environment. The asynchronous course relied heavily on making sure structures in the world represented specific activities and tasks. Students would travel from one place to another to complete assignments and would be required to schedule synchronous meetings if they wished to interact with classmates in this environment. The synchronous course allowed the teacher to be present with the students to provide real-time models, discussion, and feedback. The goals of the two classes were different as one focused on learning something that could be taught in other formats and the other focused on teaching how to build these environments. I think the chosen format for each course made sense with the course goals.
In a k-12 environment, this type of learning environment could provide students a way to engage in content differently. While the article is from 2005, the principles for how the courses are set up and why they are set that way are still relevant. Faster internet speeds would allow for these types of environments to be even more immersive because a verbal discussion is now more readily available in these programs. Teachers who are looking to find a way for students who are spatial or interactive learners could utilize the 3D virtual learning environments to create the optimal learning experience.