The future is the 3D virtual classroom for online lessons. The idea of learning by doing is not a new approach: it is proved that people remember 90% of what they do and only 30% of what they see. Moreover, it already demonstrated its usefulness and effectivity in all kinds of subject and topics. Therefore, it is now time to blend the learning by doing approach with modern technological devices. With the new 3D technology, we can do anything, even to create, build or make experiments in a safe environment. It should not come as a surprise that it is a popular method in language learning as well.
Virtual 3D Learning
Virtual 3D Learning can be the solution for different educational issues. Not just the amount and quality of the accessible tools, but also it can have a significant effect on the social, financial and behavior aspects of the children’s development. Virtual 3D learning is a complex idea that merges virtual learning and 3D technology.
Firstly, virtual learning received attention because it has a huge potential in STEM education. It enables students to obtain knowledge and experience at the same time. With this, it became easy to investigate the human body and land on the Moon. In virtual 3D learning, student have the opportunity to step into an interactive environment with their gadgets. They have their personal character thus they can experience a truly engaging learning process. Virtual 3D learning encompasses texts, pictures, tasks, voices, therefore it is suitable for every learning style. It bridges the gap between the abstract and the tactile world. Students will understand the situation faster and they can see scenarios, they couldn’t have understood otherwise. It provides context to the students, more easily than any other classroom tool.
Studies and experiences show potential benefit in using virtual systems and characters to improve language pedagogy and learner’s motivation respectively. In language learning, real-life experience and practice are fundamental. Therefore, the opportunity to talk, chat, interact with foreign people in a virtual environment is beneficial for acquiring a language. Pronunciation and vocabulary are just a few from the language skills which can be easily developed in a virtual environment with real-life activities. On the other hand, it is cost and time effective not just for learners, but also for teachers.
In 3D virtual classrooms, educators have an opportunity to create different frameworks. Learners can live, act and explore as in real-life. Similarly, to reality, they interact with each other to obtain information. They construct their own role and they have the opportunity to build communities and even other objects. Finally, they must express their thoughts, feeling not just in oral form, but also in texts, videos, podcasts, etc. Therefore, it promotes the development of oral, writing, emotional and social skills at the same time.
3D language learning characteristics
Teaching and learning through 3d virtual environments are not a new idea. It appeared at the beginning of the century. Since that time, the question is to what extent it could apply virtual 3D learning in learning language.
To create a successful integration, there are some fundamental characteristics which have to be applied. First, it has to have a visual context to enact learning scenarios. Second, interaction and engagement are more important than the quantity or immersion. Third, when we learn, we create virtual maps in our head. We have to link the different information and find out their relation to each other. Therefore, it should be easy to navigate in the environment and the different parts should be structured and support the meaning creation process. Finally, teachers are not directly teaching, they more life facilitators. Their role is to guide and safeguard the learning process. Finally, it has to effectively use and integrate different media such as e-books, videos, surveys, etc.
3D virtual worlds for teaching
3D virtual worlds can be utilized in different ways. For example, some professors are using platforms as meeting space for students to attend lectures with embedded videos, illustrations, ebooks, or 3D models. Others fully exploit their potential and they hold the lectures, papers in a virtual classroom. Moreover, there are some platforms where students can take part in exams in a virtual 3d environment. The virtual classrooms and 3D environments make it much easier to store information, files and create a connection between participants. Moreover, organizing field trips for learning vocabulary, for example learning the names of the animals on a farm, righ on the spot, is much more feasible.
Language learning is a specific part of the 3D virtual learning and teaching. One of the most popular site for those kinds of activities integrates all the kinds of learning methods and materials. On the platform, texts, audios and other materials are integrated in meaningful ways to support learning. Digital language villages enable people to live in a multicultural community in their own country. Users can interact, talk, chat and even do activities together without travelling.
Blended Learning goes 3D
Blended learning emerged with the wide access to ICT technologies and their integration to education. This means it combines formal, traditional and the non-formal, informal and technology-based educational methods. Most of the universities and even high schools use this approach because it makes the learning process more flexible and reachable for everyone. For example, if a teacher holds a lecture, but he knows that a lot of the students are missing, he can offer to upload it in video format or stream it.
Virtual 3D environments are suitable for blended learning because it enables the student to take part in specific activities in each time without leaving the house. Also, they usually gamify the activities, therefore participants easily immerse into the learning. Moreover, they promote collaboration and creativity. The virtual 3D environments have a hidden aim, to create learning communities, where participants easily can help and support each other. Therefore, it is not only assisting the learning but also supports the development of emotional and social skills.
Virtual 3D environments mostly used as a supplement of the traditional lessons. Field trips are more feasible and available than ever before. Nowadays we are moving into a phase where virtual worlds are taken very seriously. In the changing worlds, virtual 3D reality receives more attention from the academic and scientific area than before. It has a huge potential to reduce to expenses of the scientific work and make the education system more successful.
When I was at the Learntec 2019 trade fair in Karlsruhe, Germany, I tried the 3D virtual classroom myself. There were many other innovations, which we will also test and gradually implement.
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