The power of role-based e-learning: selected content, tables and figures
- Naming the Field
- What is Role Play?
- How Can Technology be Used in Role Play?
- What is Online Role Play?
- Online Role Play and Blended e-Learning
- Outline of the Book
Figure 0.3 Three dimensions for understanding technology functions in role-based e-learning
How Can Technology be Used in Role Play?
Online role plays are generally conducted via email or a combination of email and web-based threaded discussion forum (see Figure 0.1). These technologies are called “asynchronous” technologies, meaning that users do not have to be online at the same time. Messages are stored and read in the receiver’s own time and replies are likewise stored and read when the user is able to be online. Asynchronous online communication need not be in “real-time” unlike face-to-face communication and telephone communication which can only happen in real-time. These real-time
modes are called “synchronous” and in an online environment the technologies used are for example Chat, Skype, Second Life etc.
More recent online role plays are experimenting with new technologies which are highly visually immersive such as Duke University’s Virtual Peace (see Figure 0.2). Described in more detail in Chapter 2 as Example 2.12, this role play enables learners to use voice and body language as well as text to convey their role’s input to the topic under discussion. However this also means that the role play is conducted in real time and thus places the same demands (and stresses) on learners as face-to-face role play does. In synchronous modes of interaction, learners are required to respond immediately whilst at the same time maintaining their role. Some learners find this daunting and it may not be necessary for all learning contexts. The asynchronous technologies provide time for learners to consider their responses and the inputs of other roles and may provide for a more reflective learning experience.
One way to evaluate technology’s potential for role-based e-learning is to examine it in relation to the following three dimensions of a learning design: time, group and environment. The time dimension is concerned with how the technology will influence the response time expected from the learners. For example, Second Life requires learners to be responding in near real time providing opportunities for impromptu actions. On the other hand, forward and store services, such as email, provide opportunities for reflection, research and collaborative brainstorming.
The second dimension concerns the way technology influences learning group dynamics. Whilst any learning design must promote individual learning, it should also enhance collaborative work. Some Second Life designs are only about the individual interacting with the information or the environment rather than interaction with the other learners.
The third dimension concerns how the environment is developed. At the present time, the virtual spaces created in Second Life are of necessity prepared with institutional authority, due to cost and time. In Graphics and Design courses there have been cases of learners creating visual representations of their context, however in online role play the time taken up with learner-designed environments may interfere with the main learning objectives.
Figure 0.3 presents these three dimensions as related and maps a hypothetical online role play against those dimensions. Virtual Peace would be towards the centre on two out of three of the dimensions. Diplomatic Encounters shown in Figure 0.1 would be on the outer edge for all three dimensions.