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Using simulations and virtual environments as an instructional tool can have many benefits for learners and instructors.
Instructors have long known that interactive, hands-on, and experiential learning is more effective than passive modes of instruction, but time, budget, and safety constraints often prevent faculty from offering students these kinds of learning experiences in the physical world. With simulated environments, students can be fully immersed into learning experiences that engage and excite the senses, explore locations they may never have the opportunity to visit in real life, visualize data and complex models in new ways, or practice skills, processes, and procedures until perfected.
Case Study: Galapagos Islands in Second Life
During the University of Cincinnati’s celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, a full scale replica of the Galapagos Islands was created in the virtual world of Second Life and used by faculty and students in a variety of programs as diverse as communications, biology, and geography in undergraduate, graduate, and honors classes to explore the terrain, see indigenous species in their natural habitats, and to engage with Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos in a new and interactive way.
UC Professor Kenneth Petren, Biological Sciences , who studies Galapagos finches and is an active outreach speaker promoting science literacy, noted:
“[Virtual environments] allow instructors to convey a sense of place. The landscape is a central part of the Galapagos experience, and it is difficult to convey the sense of scale with photos in a book or lecture. Instructors can use Second Life to nest core principals of science and engineering within their larger context, resulting in a great benefit for students. It is simply much more exciting to explore and discover things, much like Darwin did during the voyage of the Beagle.”
Contact our staff to find out how you can take advantage of simulations and virtual environments to enhance your teaching practice.