Designing and implementing a big open online course by using a 3d virtual immersive environment : lessons learned

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Mystakidis, Stylianos
Berki, Eleni
Valtanen, Juri-Petri
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Open Education (OE) is a distance learning approach that was strategically chosen by the European Commission (EC) to encourage cost-effective training, upskilling and reskilling of large population groups and workforce with speed and flexibility. Institutions and businesses design and offer Open Online Courses (OOCs) to address skill gaps, organizational and societal needs. OOCs and especially Massive OOCs (MOOCs) are suffering from high rates of attrition, which is attributed to various factors such as learner isolation and lack of motivation to complete the course. Recommendations to address the retention gap in MOOCs include adopting a participation-driven approach, using game design techniques in the courses’ pedagogical design and supplementing the predominant asynchronous learning paradigm in MOOCs with synchronous learning activities and virtual meetings. The University of Patras (South Greece) organized an innovative, motivation-enhanced Big Open Online Course (BOOC), the first of its kind in Greece, with title “Open Workshop on Information Literacy”. During the course, over three hundred (300) participants acquired information literacy skills using available open learning environments and the three-dimensional virtual immersive learning environment Second Life. In this paper, the authors describe the instructional approach based on Problem-Focused Education (PFE) and Game-Based Learning (GBL), the participants’ results and the course outcomes, and the necessary pre-requisites for successful outcomes. Further, the participants’ feedback, evaluation outcomes and lessons learned are discussed. In summary, the participants achieved their set learning goals, experienced a community of practice atmosphere and appreciated the variety of active learning modes. The open publication mode of most learning activities facilitated social agency that lead to additional motivation. Finally, the course demonstrated that the effective use of virtual immersive learning environments for rich, synchronous learning, both formal and informal, can enhance OOCs.
E-learning, Virtual worlds, Virtual reality, Distance education, Distance learning, Massive open online courses, Open education, Information literacy, Problem-based learning, Higher education