Monday, 2 July 2012

Investigating user experience in Second Life for collaborative learning

an article by Alistair Sutcliffe and Amal Alrayes (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester) published in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies Volume 70 Issue 7 (July 2012)


Two studies on collaborative learning in Second Life are reported.

The first is an ecological study of Second Life used in an undergraduate class, by observation, interviews, and limit surveys. Use of Second Life motivated students with good user experience, although they viewed it as a games technology. Second Life was used to prepare virtual meetings and presentations but not for online discussion, with Blackboard and especially Facebook providing collaborative support.

In the second experimental study, the effectiveness and user experience with Second Life and Blackboard were compared, including a face-to-face control condition. There were no performance differences overall, although face-to-face was quicker and was preferred by users, followed by Blackboard and Second Life. Blackboard was perceived to be more usable, whereas Second Life provided a better user experience.

Worst performance was indicated by dislike of avatar interaction in Second Life, and poor user experience in Blackboard, whereas better performance was associated with engagement with avatars, and better usability in Blackboard.

The results of both studies are reviewed using Salmon’s model for online learning, suggesting that Second Life helped motivation and socialisation stages, although integration with other technologies is necessary for knowledge construction. Preliminary guidelines are proposed for configuration and management of Second Life in collaborative learning. The affordances for collaboration in virtual worlds are discussed, with reflections on user experience and functional support provided by Second Life, as an exemplar of a virtual world for collaborative learning support.

► Case study of Second Life user experience.
► Experimental comparison of UX in Second Life and Blackboard.
► Review of findings using Salmon’s learning model.
► Guidelines for virtual worlds in collaborative learning.
► Evaluation techniques for UX in virtual worlds.

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