A study of virtual reality environments as a venue for social interaction among distance learners
Kimberly J. Nankivell, Capella University, United States
Capella University . Awarded
The development of the World Wide Web has established Distance Learning (DL) as a viable avenue for educational institutions. This form of learning has some inherent problems associated with it. Research has shown that learner-to-learner and instructor-to-learner social interaction are regarded as vital elements that are relatively absent in online learning. This lack of interaction in the form of social interaction creates social isolation, which in many cases leads to lower retention rates among online learners. An innovative approach to improve the social interaction and to address the resultant isolation is the use of virtual reality environments. These environments can provide learners with interaction with fellow learners and instructors in a manner very similar to traditional face-to-face communication (Young, Virtual reality on a desktop hailed as new tool in distance education, 2000). Due to advancement in hardware and software technologies, virtual reality environments are becoming more available. This now allows many academic institutions to take advantage of their functionality and deploy them for educational endeavors (Stackpole, Virtual reality gets real, 2008). There has been little research into the social interactions of the synchronous and asynchronous communication tools provided for online learning. This quantitative study investigated the utilization of virtual reality environments as well as the current technologies employed to enhance distance learners' social interaction. The research further investigated the overall input these various communication tools had on the perceptions and perspectives relating to the social interaction, as viewed by DL learners and instructors.
Nankivell, K.J. A study of virtual reality environments as a venue for social interaction among distance learners. Ph.D. thesis, Capella University.
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