Meeting virtually – Learning English in OpenSim

Virtual worlds such as OpenSim are great places to meet and to learn. This is particularly true for language learning. However, the downside is that it is hard for a teacher to monitor and assess what is going on in the virtual world. NEXT-TELL offer tools to use virtual worlds meaningfully!

Gabriele is an English teacher in Germany and Lisa teaches English in Gabrieles Norwegian partner school. Gabriele and Lisa want their classes to cooperate in a virtual environment to practice their English. Therefore they meet with their English classes in Chatterdale, an isolated island on an OpenSimulator server that is tailored to educational purposes. They have designed a little quest that requires communicating, listening, reading, and understanding English texts. In total 20 children from Germany and 18 from Norway enter the virtual island and spread all around the little town Chatterdale. Also Gabriele and Lisa are logged in and move through the town, aiming at supporting and guiding the children in case they need help.

Gabriele and Lisa both use nextREALITY’s Teacher Control Center to monitor their student’s activities. In Germany, Gabriele is interested in communication density and the type of communication. The Teacher Control Center provides Gabriele with the chat intensity (e.g., the number of chatted words) over time summarized for her entire class. In addition Gabriele can immediately see the log-in times and the amount of communication of each individual student. Gabriele is also interested whether her students used certain phrases and she wants to control if the children used swear words. Gabriele applies simple filters that highlight predefined phrases in one colour and swear words in another.

In Norway, Lisa is more interested in learning performance with respect to pre-defined standardized language skills (CEFR). She defined simple rules for the little quest, for example, the rule “when a student finds a text with instructions and follows those instruction within a certain period of time, then this student has certain reading and understanding competencies”. The Teacher Control Center shows Lisa the likelihoods for the predefined CEFR competencies for each of her students in form of easy to understand bar charts. Lisa can also access the text chatted by each student and she can adjust the competency level manually with a slider control. With a button click, the outcomes of the OpenSim session can be transferred to Lisa’s Open Learner Model (OLM) account, where all achievements of her students are archived and visualized.

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