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Appalachian professors edit textbook on the virtual classroom

BOONE – Drs. Amelia Cheney and Robert L. Sanders are editors of a textbook addressing online teaching and learning.

The text, “Teaching and Learning in 3D Immersive Worlds: Pedagogical Models and Constructivist Approaches” published by IGI Global, examines successful implementation of social constructivist instructional design tenets in 3D virtual immersive environments.

Cheney is an assistant professor and Sanders is an associate prfessor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies in Appalachian’s Reich College of Education.

According to the publisher, online learning has grown considerably in recent years, providing an ever larger number of both college level and K-12 students with an educational experience in the virtual classroom sometime during their education. Authors share best practices, challenges and advice to those working to utilize virtual environments in higher education and other venues. Readers will gain both a research background in the use of virtual worlds for teaching and learning and practical advice as they begin to design and implement these environments.

Cheney and Sanders assert that constructivism forms an ideal pedagogical framework for the fully immersive educational worlds of the future. “While myriad Web-based tools have existed for years to help deliver course content, these tools have not traditionally provided means for creation of community with the imbedded communication and collaboration necessary for successful teaching and learning,” they wrote. The professors argue that these immersive worlds should be taught according to a social constructivist model, which focuses on actively learning together by doing, instead of “more traditional, didactic practice where teachers hold the reins of instruction.”

The next stage after online instruction, argue several professors, is fully immersive learning.

Ambient Insight, a research firm, recently predicted that four years from now more than “25 million postsecondary students” will be “taking at least one online course,” reported Denny Carter for ECampusNews.com . “The number of college students taking traditional face-to-face classes will plummet from 14.4 million in 2010 to 4.1 million in 2015, according to the report,” writes Carter. This could, he argues, put traditional learning on par with online learning.

“Games typically are highly scripted, goal-driven environments in which participants engage in some type of quest to accumulate points or status,” wrote Clemson University Professor Stephen C. Bronack in the book. “Virtual worlds, on the other hand,” he writes, “typically are collaborative social spaces that focus on supporting communication and sharing, rather than competition.” This provides an opportunity for educators to develop a teaching framework which takes into account the need for community while being “together, apart,” he wrote.

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