Saturday, September 22, 2007

River City – a Research on MUVE and Learning Scientific Inquiry

Multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) are not necessary to be heavily game-specific. One of the most well-known MUVEs is River City project created by a group of professors from several universities in 2000.

This National Science Foundation funded project is based on a scenario that a city in 19th century is suffering from public health problems. Students create their own avatars and step into the online virtual environment to explore the possible sources for diseases, using many levels of skills. The project offers free implementation opportunities for middle schools and non-profit educational institutions globally. About sixty teachers for 4000 middle grades science students in the US and Australia have participated in River City Project. I knew they planed to expand the exploring base to India and China but I am not sure if they had done that now. According to research papers, students participated in the course said that they felt like playing a game while doing research like real scientists.

This originally Harvard Graduate School of Education based project intended to find a way to help students understand how to identify a problem, create a hypothesis, then test it. They created River City project to explore the strengths and limits for learning with MUVE technology The research scope has now been expanded to study how to make the curriculum robust enough to be effective across levels of engagement, students’ prior academic history, class size, and differences in teachers’ training.

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