Simulating Classes with Avatars of Students and Teachers

Barcelona (E), November 2012 - As a member of the Office of Learning Technologies at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Carles Fernàndez Barrera is a specialist in eLearning projects related to the use of serious games and virtual worlds, video and interactive TV, music and quizzes and other resources as learning tools. At ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN, he will talk about "Creating a Serious Game to Engage Teachers in Lifelong Learning".

How does a learning game that seeks to promote lifelong learning among teachers come about? What are the main ideas it involves?

Carles Fernandez Barrera: All teacher-education programs require teacher candidates to have in-school practicum experiences. Placing student teachers in schools is not always easy, however, and it is getting harder. It thus becomes more difficult to find proper schools for the teacher candidates to practice teaching.

The project aimed at offering a virtual medium for initial and lifelong teacher training. The project's originality lies in a tool that is a simulation of the serious-game variety which enables users (teachers in training, in this case) to put their skills into practice in an environment that faithfully recreates the reality of teaching. Additionally, as a simulation, SimAULA makes it possible to avoid the negative consequences that teachers' actions could have in the context of a real classroom.

Who developed the game?

Carles Fernandez Barrera: The whole consortium of the project has participated in the several aspects of the development: concept design, modelisation, storyboards creation, technical developments, etc. The participant institutions in the consortium are the University of Conventry (UK), the University of Sofia (Bulgaria), the Open University of Catalunya (Spain), INDRA (Spain), and the Ellinogermaniki Agogi (Greece).

What is the storyboard about?

Carles Fernandez Barrera: When using the SimAULA platform, the teacher in training controls an avatar that interacts with student avatars, controlled automatically by SimAULA, in a virtual classroom where lessons are taught, and a series of situations liable to arise in a face-to-face environment are played out. By way of a specific example, the first version of SimAULA features a simulated biology class in which the teacher avatar has to help student avatars fulfill various learning goals.

How is the game distributed to the target audience?

Carles Fernandez Barrera: The game will be available online, along with supporting resources like tutorials and guidelines for teachers who want to use SIMAULA with their students.

Have you measured any empirical values in regard to the acceptance?

Carles Fernandez Barrera: SIMAULA will be evaluated with a set of assessment methodologies, techniques, and indicators, etc. At the present time, we still haven't started the evaluation stage.