Projects Underway

Developing an Informed Community of People Who Are Interested in Advancing 3D Virtual World Instruction

John Cabra

Project Team
  • Cyndi Burnett, KnowInnovation

Buffalo State College


Tier One

Project Abstract:

3D worlds are potentially important tools that are likely to gain wide spread adoption as colleges become populated with ‘digital native’ students. The International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) has conducted some initial experiments with a platform called Qube, which seems to offer an interesting combination of features that make it particularly appropriate for distance teaching, learning and creative collaboration in various disciplines.

Learning in a virtual 3D environment, such as Qube, brings many benefits. These include learner cues on visual, auditory and spatial elements of 3D environments, which leads to better recall and application of learning. Another benefit allows students at a distance to be in the same place to practice behaviors, not just online at the same time. Students become emotionally involved in and connected to the learning due to realism. Experienced students can explore more possibilities of dialogue than in a scripted simulation, as if there exists a sense of “being there” for the learner.

There are some advantages that Qube has over traditional online learning tools. Students stay more focused (not as likely to check email). They are immersed in a learning environment where they must act and behave as if they were in an actual environment. Consequently, they are placed in the appropriate context to apply the learning.

More specifically, Qube has provided flexible space design for holding meetings, facilitating ideation sessions, classes, social networking and other functions. Qube holds advantages over a platform like SecondLife because it is much more user friendly, intuitive, and as such makes it more appealing to the reluctant non-technological user. Moreover, Qube provides virtual post-its, virtual paper, drag and drop capabilities for entering files generated from all kinds of software programs, and skype-like capabilities, which lend themselves for effective creative collaboration. To date, the ICSC department has experimented with new product development sessions involving two manufacturing companies, informal network sessions among alumni of our graduate program, and has presented three graduate level courses in large measure within this Qube platform.

The graduate programs at the ICSC at Buffalo State College offers the world’s only Masters of Science degree in the study of creativity. Its program is trans-disciplinary as creativity is viewed as an essential life skill. It offers a diverse menu of programs that cultivate skills in creative thinking, innovative leadership practices, and problem-solving techniques. The Center’s graduate and certificate programs are sought after credentials by leaders from a variety of organizations such as manufacturing, customer service, government, nonprofit, education and religious. Many of the courses that were designed to deliberately enhance creativity are campus-based courses.

For many years now the prevailing assumption has been that these campus based creativity courses could only be effectively delivered face-to-face because of its highly experiential and engaging nature, its interactivity, hands on exercises, and its practical applications. But now with the successful completion of pilots, they suggest that QUBE does demonstrate potential for utilizing its learning space for a host of diverse learning activities. However, it is still undetermined if these activities can be applied by an informed community from other disciplines who are interested in advancing 3D virtual world instructional tools.

To that end, the ICSC intends to conduct an action research study. A number of creativity workshops are planned for design and delivery to further understand the capabilities of this platform, and to determine whether it would be a suitable addition to the SUNY’s electronic learning tools. At the micro level, these experiments fit the center’s initiative to evaluate its graduate program’s impact on distance student learning. Yet the usability of these initiatives, in support of pedagogy, has never been explored in other disciplines.

In detail, this proposal involves 1) the design of a two hour Creativity Workshop to be held in a 3D virtual world called Qube. Faculty members from a variety of disciplines (e.g., Musicology, Philosophy, Educational Technology, Art, Business Administration, Nutrition, Hospitality) from across SUNY campuses will be invited to participate in the workshop; 2) this workshop would be delivered three times over the course of the fall semester; 3) conduct a qualitative study using Action Research to identify participant learning experiences and best practice patterns among the disciplines; and 4) to create best practice training resources to inform a community of people who are interested in advancing 3D virtual world instructional tools.

The overarching purpose of this project, therefore, is to write best practice case studies (e.g., video, written case studies, audio interviews) to inform SUNY faculty how to manipulate Qube to teach in their respective disciplines. It will be their input as it relates to their experiences with Qube that will be utilized.

To study the potential of this platform, a participatory action research method was selected. Dick (2002) defined participatory action research as a collaborative way to test new ideas and implement changes based on the learning garnered from these testing procedures. The authors of this study will be directly involved in designing and delivering the Qube workshops. They will utilize this experience to monitor and evaluate the effects of their facilitation approach, Qube features and pedagogical activities with the aim of improving and generalizing practice.

Project Outcome:

Journal article and three YouTube videos demonstrate use of Qube for collaboration on outcomes webpage.