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October-December 2010 (vol. 3 no. 4)
pp. 281-293
Kristoffer Getchell, Kingston University, UK
Alan Miller, University of St Andrews, St Andrews
J. Ross Nicoll, University of St Andrews, St Andrews
Rebecca J. Sweetman, University of St Andrews, St Andrews
Colin Allison, University of St Andrews, St Andrews
The construction and consolidation of knowledge through the practical application of concepts and processes can be difficult to support for subjects where practice is an integral component of competence and expertise in that domain. For example, participation in an archaeological excavation is not readily available to students, although a detailed understanding of what processes this involves is deemed to be core to the subject. The Laconia Acropolis Virtual Archaeology (LAVA) project has created a cooperative exploratory learning environment that addresses the need for students to engage with the complex practice of excavation. By leveraging the progressive nature of games methodologies and the immersive engagement provided by 3D multiuser virtual environments, LAVA facilitates the adoption of exploratory learning for excavation scenarios which have previously been inaccessible due to barriers of travel, time, and cost. A virtual environment based on real world data has been developed where groups of users are faced with a series of dynamic challenges with which they engage until such time that a certain level of competence is shown. Once a series of domain-specific objectives has been met, users are able to progress forward to the next level of the simulation. The excavation simulator enhances the student learning experience by providing opportunities for students to engage with the process in a customizable, virtual environment. Not only does this provide students with an opportunity to put the theories they are familiar with into practice, but it also allows students to gain experience in applying their skills in a bid to manage an excavation process, thereby making it possible for a greater emphasis to be placed on the practical application of knowledge that the excavation process necessitates. The potential of this approach has been confirmed by a positive user evaluation. LAVA contributes toward the progress of technology-enhanced learning by illustrating the instantiation of a framework which demonstrates how to integrate games methods with learning management systems and virtual worlds in order to support higher order learning behaviors such as applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

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Index Terms:
Technology-enhanced learning, virtual fieldwork, archaeology education.
Kristoffer Getchell, Alan Miller, J. Ross Nicoll, Rebecca J. Sweetman, Colin Allison, "Games Methodologies and Immersive Environments for Virtual Fieldwork," IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 281-293, Oct.-Dec. 2010, doi:10.1109/TLT.2010.25
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