Virtual TEAL World

 Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) is a learning approach designed based on the interactive engagement learning method. It was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and successfully improves the efficiency of teaching freshmen physics. TEAL uses especially designed classrooms, hands-on experiments, and the simulation software TEALsim for three-dimensional visualizations to enhance the conceptual understanding of students. It provides different teaching methods and scenarios to advance the effectiveness of interactive engagement. Nevertheless, not every institution or university is able to fund the according renovations of the classrooms. Also, this teaching model does not support distance learning possibilities teaching model.The Virtual TEAL World is an attempt to design a virtual three-dimensional learning environment that integrates the educational valuable components and scenarios of the TEAL approach to provide a flexible, competitive, and economic reproduction of the original TEAL environment, which also supports distance-learning scenarios. Tools, experiments, videos, and the 3d simulations used by TEAL were especially implemented or adapted for the collaborative virtual world environment Open Wonderland to assimilate the original TEAL environment.

The main objective of the Virtual TEAL World is to provide a virtual learning environment that accomplishes learning achievements as good as the TEAL environment so that students who are learning in the Virtual TEAL World can achieve the same conceptual understanding. The practical work includes the adaption of the existing integration of TEALsim and the first implementation of a module simulating concept questions in Open Wonderland, with regard to the defined requirements, such as usability, interactivity, and collaboration.

Three-dimensional virtual worlds, however, are still unfamiliar and seen as controversial by teachers and learners. In particular, issues such as technical requirements, lack of user acceptance, and lack of technical expertise are hindering factors to use 3d virtual worlds for educational scenarios. Therefore, the main objective of the design and the corresponding evaluation is to raise the users’ motivation, to enhance usability and to show that students learning in the Virtual TEAL World can achieve conceptual understanding.

A first evaluation was conducted in two phases with the main stakeholder groups and integrated questions focusing on usability and stakeholder requirements. First, physicists and instructors evaluated the world with a focus on pedagogical objectives. In the second phase, student groups conducted a supervised learning roundtrip with respect to learning progress and motivation. This first evaluation shows advances of motivation by enhancing interactivity and collaboration, and indicated a minimized user frustration by focusing on enhanced usability of the system. The majority of the participants would use this system for learning, but pointed out the need of an increased performance and enhanced graphics.

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