Case Study 5: Virtual worlds to facilitate Chinese language learning (paired role-play)

Face-to-face student view

Face-to-face student view

Remote student view

Remote student view

Scott Grant

Scott Grant

In this lesson, designed by Scott Grant from Monash University, students participate in a tightly constructed virtual world role-play activity in Second Life. The activity is based on themes that appear in their main textbook and aimed at developing their Mandarin language communicative capabilities. Students could either choose to participate in on-campus computer laboratories or from external locations. At the time of the tutorial students logged in to the virtual world and were allocated into groups of two by the teacher, who was both in the physical classroom and in-world. The objective of the lesson was for students to make a bowl of soup dumplings in the kitchen of the virtual world restaurant, which required them to utilize a range of previously learned vocabulary, phrases and sentence patters to ask the non-player character (NPC) hostess of the restaurant about what ingredients they needed, where they could buy the ingredients, how to get there, and then follow those directions and go to a traditional farmers' market and actually buy the ingredients from another NPC selling fruit, vegetables and meat., Finally they had to take the ingredients back to the kitchen of the restaurant and cook them on the stove. Remote students were paired with face-to-face students, who could communicate via voice and text. Students communicated with the NPCs via Chinese character text chat. Communication between students occurred mainly in English using either text chat or voice. Because the task and environment were so extensively designed the teacher did not need to provide much in-class instruction, and instead helped individuals in the on-campus computer lab. While initially communication between some pairs was slow to take off, through subsequent close collaboration most pairs were able to obtain the information they needed through conversing with the NPCs and navigate the environment to complete the various stages of the set task and finally make the bowl of soup dumplings.