Stepping Out of the Classroom

While three-dimensional virtual learning environments have attracted plenty of research interest, mirror-world-like virtual campuses have been used mainly for virtual tours, promotions, or for simulation purposes. In this article, the authors investigate the use of geographically accurate mirror-world-like virtual campus models as an interactive learning environment. The initial prototype of the virtual campus covers about 2,300 m2 of a university campus and contains basic pedagogical, communicational, and content creation functionalities. A qualitative study with 14 participants explored their anticipated user experiences as well as their needs for the services and functionalities of the virtual campus. The findings suggest that a more profound link of reality and virtuality than just mirroring physical spaces in the virtual realm is needed. A hybrid reality approach is required to foster social community building and collaboration, 3D space design, and service integration. Finally, stepping out of the classroom introduces privacy issues that should be considered carefully.