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International avatar collaboration and student learning in immersive worlds

Ramsay, Howard and Demangeot, Catherine and Land, Ray (2011) International avatar collaboration and student learning in immersive worlds. In: EARLI Conference, Exeter, 2011-08-29 - 2011-09-03.

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This paper considers two studies. The first brought together online, within the immersive world of Second Life, a small group of MBA students from 8 different locales in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (and from distinctively different cultures) to collaborate on various questions of International Marketing. The second study brought together geographically distributed Canadian civil servants with facilitators in Canada and the UK. The research aimed to ascertain how students and their facilitator felt about their avatar and about mediating their interaction through an avatar. Did it help or impede communication, involvement and collaboration? In the first of two studies, the avatars’ relative genderlessness and culturelessness meant that the communication with each avatar was not affected by awareness of differences between high‐ and low‐context cultures (Hall, 1973). The virtual environment appeared to change the ‘rules of engagement’ between avatars, primarily as a result of the absence of body language cues, and the contextlessness and culturelessness of the avatars. The resulting findings from these studies are informing the development of recommended guidelines for the staging of educational seminars in immersive worlds.