Mediated rich intake environments in virtual worlds
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Mediated Rich Intake Environments in Virtual Worlds. Scott Grant, Annie Jeffery and Emily East. Scott Grant.

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Mediated rich intake environments in virtual worlds

Mediated Rich Intake Environments in Virtual Worlds

Scott Grant, Annie Jeffery and Emily East

Scott grant

Scott Grant

Scott has taught Chinese language and culture at undergraduate level for 10 years and translation theory and practice at post-graduate level for 4 years at Monash University. Previously Scott worked in industry for 10 years and lived and worked in China for 7 years. He has been involved in the development of immersive online 3D learning environments for the last 2 years.

Emily east

Emily East

Emily has a background in philosophy and French, and has experience teaching school-aged children in France. She currently works in the retail industry and is an in-world host for the Second Life game of Primtionary. Emily started exploring MOOs 6 years ago, and visual worlds 18 months ago. Her current research interests are cultural aspects of in-world games and text-based virtual worlds. 

Annie jeffery

Annie Jeffery

Annie has been a researcher, designer and teacher in educational technology for 10 years, her experience ranges from instructional design to learning technology standards. She has been researching virtual worlds for over two years, and is building a new tropical sound garden for EdTech Island.  Annie currently teaches "Social Network Learning in Virtual Worlds" for Boise State University, and is pursuing a PhD exploring sensory learning in virtual worlds at the University of Loughborough. 



This presentation highlights the work of two universities' work with Second Life (SL) to orient students to life and study in another culture.

The M3 project at the University of Southampton involved international students coming to the UK to live, study and experience local culture. Formed mostly of students from China and Taiwan, one group of students were already resident and mid way through an MA in Linguistics, whilst the other group were distance learners pre-arrival to the UK. The M3 Project students were interviewed about their ideas on using games and virtual worlds for learning cultures and languages, social media and their experiences in using SL.



1st year local and international undergraduate Chinese language and culture students at Monash University in Australia were taken to the university's virtual tea house on Monash Island in SL to participate in a lesson on ordering food and food culture in China. The lesson was designed to achieve a number of pedagogical goals that included reinforcing and increasing students knowledge of Hanyu pinyin (romanised spelling of characters), their ability to recognise a range of Chinese characters, their knowledge of Chinese customs around eating out and of Chinese food culture, and providing an opportunity to utilise vocabulary and sentence patterns learned in the formal classroom environment in a semi-dynamic and contextualised environment.



Each of the projects explored the potential of using semi-structured and less-formal interactions in an immersive virtual environment to further familiarise students with real world cultural and linguistic environments, as well as achieve other specific disciplinary and pedagogical goals.In each case, students were immersed in a purpose-designed virtual environment that provided a rich range of sensory inputs that were both targeted and incidental in nature. The environments and the lesson / interaction designs were also conducive to students actively producing output in the target languages concerned, English and Chinese, in a less formal, semi-structured, semi-dynamic and contextually relevant way. Students were encouraged to utilise exiting knowledge gained through formal classroom learning, self-learning and life experience as well utilise new knowledge acquired during the lesson to interact with the environment, the instructors and each other.



These environments could be considered to be a mediated form of 'rich intake environments', a term which the well known second language acquisition theorist Stephen Krashen used in the 1980's to describe real world environments condusive to, and he would argue, necessary to, the 'acquisition' of a second language (and knowledge of the associated culture).

What are mediated rich intake environments

What are mediated rich intake environments?

In studies conducted by Krashen and others in the late 70s and 80s it was shown that rich intake environments are conducive to the acquisition of a second language, acquisition being more than the mere mechanical knowledge of a language. Such environments include living in a home where the target language is spoken regularly, living in a country where the language is spoken, and the language classroom where inputs come from the language being spoken by the teacher and the peers of the language student.

 Krashen's concept of intake environments and second language acquisition is useful for exploring the potential of immersive virtual learning environments for familiarizing students with languages and cultures other than their own. Virtual worlds such as Second Life can provide an informal environment that simulates aspects of the real world but in a more controlled way so that the input that students receive and interact with is comprehensible and can be suitably extended to challenge students in an appropriate way.

What are mediated rich intake environments cont d

What are mediated rich intake environments? (cont'd)

Rather than being overwhelmed by the amount and complexity of the information that they encounter in a real world environment, students are able to experience and learn certain aspects of custom, culture, language and procedure in a controlled way that can prepare them better for interactions in the real world at some later point.

This presentation explores students' views and experiences of using virtual worlds for learning language and culture, and discusses the ways in which VWs like SL can be used to provide a mediated rich intake environment to orient students to new RL linguistic, cultural and procedural environments prior to engaging with those environments in RL.

What can they do for me

What can they do for me?

Mediated rich intake environments provide learning environments that let your students explore and learn through a range of senses rather than simply sound or vision in isolation.

Such environments offer a richer range of learning activities, greater teacher-student and peer interaction, and greater pedagogical flexibility than the formal classroom.

Learners can engage and interact with 'natives' from the target culture in both unstructured and semi-structured ways.

These environments allow learners to actively engage in and seek out input from the environment and those around them.

Learning takes place in context rather than as an isolated activity that occurs in an abstract way.

Learning can take place in both an asynchronous and a synchronous manner (the environments are available 24/7).

Learning activities can be designed that are understood, appropriate and 'natural'

Monash tea house

Monash tea house

A traditional tea house / inn that contains:

- a range of visual inputs (virtual architecture, dishes, drinks, menus, eating implements, small shrine, fish tank, toilets, etc.)

- targeted audio inputs (names of dishes and other items in Chinese, sample dialogues, cultural information)

- ambient audio inputs (music, restaurant sounds)

- voice-based audio inputs- and textual inputs (cultural information, information on tea products, menus, dish ingredients and recipes)

- assessment and survey tools (quiz boards, survey box)

New hope sound garden

New Hope sound garden

The New hope sound garden is the first exploration of the role of senses, and in particular sound, for learning in virtual worlds. The garden design is inspired by English 17th century knot gardens; a familiar social space filled with natural environmental sounds.- Immersive, and reflection is encouraged through the use of ambient noise such as bird calls, rain, and time sensitive soundscapes. Sitting and listening is encouraged.

Less ambient and avatar sensitive sounds such as the beehives, ducks, frogs and hummingbirds encourage investigation of sound origins. 

Distant ambient industrial sounds such as the watermill encourage exploration beyond the bounds of the walled garden itself. 

The garden has been used for informal language learning for increasing vocabulary and developing conversational skills, the garden has also been used to teach adult learners as part of the Boise State "Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds" class. 

Mediated rich intake environments in virtual worlds

New Hope

sound garden

The students

The students

U of Southampton

Every summer several hundred students arrive from across the globe to take a pre-sessional course in the School of Modern Languages prior to starting their full-time courses in the autumn. Many of these students have already taken a distance learning course designed to acculturate students in UK academic life and to introduce them to British culture. During the five-week period, students can take part in learning activities using podcasts, vidcasts, learning objects, chatrooms and discussion forums.

The recent M3 project at the University of Southampton asked two groups of international students and a small group of teachers about their acceptance and perception of the virtual world, Second Life, and social networking as emergent learning technologies. A small number of students volunteered to explore Second Life as distance learners, and/or to take part in the study.

The students cont d

The students (cont'd)


Each year between 140-160 students enrol in 1st year Chinese at Monash. While some of these have some experience with Chinese language and culture (these students often act as informal mentors), many do not. The thirty students involved in the Second Life lessons were asked about their impressions of this learning format. Sixty per cent of the students also completed a multiple choice survey.

Each year Monash takes over 200 students to China for a period of between 3 and 6 weeks. Many of these students are at beginners or intermediate level and have never been to China before.

The student groups were asked to comment on mediated rich intake environments

The student groups were asked to comment on mediated rich intake environments.


The MA students, and those participating through the ArriveUK programme also stated that they felt that games and Second Life are good ways to learn about languages and culture, and a games-style focus could help motivate younger students. In Taiwan, for instance, there are few foreigners, and students have not seen the relevance of learning English.

The ARRIVEUK students were very interested in the idea of learning in a virtual Southampton before they arrived in the UK. Authentic activities and cultural knowledge were more important than total realism.

All students expressed frustration and confusion at the Linden Lab orientation processes, and the lag or latency they experienced. This appears to have been particularly bad in China.

Students and teachers, however, were engaged by avatar changing, social aspects, culturally specific locations and the interactivity of the environments. They were also unphased by ‘griefing’ or their own unexpected nudity when dressing their avatars.

Student comments cont

Student comments cont...

Monash Tea House

While not necessarily all students were experienced users of 3D virtual environments, most took to the environment like "ducks to water"

They commented that they did not find the basic skills necessary to use the format difficult to learn

Culturally and linguistically more experienced students were clearly seen to assist (mentor) less experienced classmates

Students all said they enjoyed the format of the lessons and felt motivated to participate

Most expressed frustration at the slowness of the university computers

A few commented that they did not feel they learned much linguistically, but that they thought the environment was useful for learning culture and process related knowledge

Student comments cont1

Student comments cont...

Monash Tea House cont...

Of those that did the multiple choice inworld survey, 70% said they had learned something new and 70% said they would want to do further lessons in SL

A number came back into SL to explore more broadly on their own

Boise State EdTech 'Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds' 2007 and 2008

 Adult distance learners enjoyed the informal atmosphere. Comments from small 15 minute sound activity designed to teach about the use of sound in virtual worlds ranged often centered around memories and strong personal reactions to individuals sounds such as the bees or ducks.

If you would like to visit a 3d virtual southampton what would you like to do

If you would like to visit a 3D virtual Southampton, what would you like to do?

This represents a selection of the responses we received.

Like 3D animation, UK life, culture, city, climate, universityTo simulate some situation, I think it's interested, Yes, this is helpful for my visiting the city.

Help me understand the city, Just like the role-play games, yes, I don't knowYes, it will become more attrac us more. More picture.It will be fun, AdvanceYes, how can I use the PC to do that.Yes, to improve the learning and will.Yes, how to design and make like the movie.No, if you do so the teachers won't be necessary. Yes, it introduce the scenic spotsI hope I can pretend to be the citizen, and to live in the Southampton, such as I am the owner of a pets shop. Furthermore, the tutor can be owner of daily shop, and they can chat with me like the neighbours. Finally, I will realize the city by the game.

Like Harry Potter fantasy

Mediated rich intake environments in virtual worlds

Would you like to have classes in a virtual 3D Southampton recreated online to learn about the city and the university?

From a sample of 51 students surveyed.

From a sample of 51 students surveyed

Would you like to have classes in an online game like World of Warcraft?

From a sample of 51 students surveyed.

The present and future

The present and future

        Monash University Chinese Studies Program

In addition to the 1st year Chinese students who participated in the tea house lesson and five other lessons last year (2008), sixteen 3rd year Chinese Media Studies students also did six lessons in SL, three of which involved interviewing native Chinese speakers in China, the information from which was then used to make making a bilingual television news program in SL.

Since last year Monash has purchased another island on which a larger scale "China Town" has been built and which will be used to offer an even wider range of synchronous and asynchronous activities to Chinese language and culture students.

In first semester this year (2009) 160 1st year students will be repeating the tea house and other lessons. A formal survey will be carried out after each lesson to obtain more accurate data on student impressions of the environment and, in the second half of the year, to attempt to measure changes in student self-efficacy. One of the lessons this semester will be used to conduct separate research into stimulated recall

Since last year Monash has purchased another island on which a larger scale "China Town" has been built and which will be used to offer an even wider range of synchronous and asynchronous activities to Chinese language and culture students.

The present and future1

The present and future

New Hope work on sensory learning environments is still in its stages, but a number of learning activities and builds have been designed.

A new tropical sound garden is being constructed on EdTech island for Boise State University.

A music garden to explore 'agent active sounds', with instruments available for visitors to play, is being developed and expanded elsewhere on New Hope island.  The music is provided through Magnatune Music Services ( through a system of Second Life instruments developed by Second Life resident Mikki Miles.

    Landmarks for both builds, in addition to this location, and Scott Grant's Monash University are available- please click the post box to your right to receive a copy.

Contact us

contact us

Scott Grant

        Chinese Studies Program

        Faculty of Arts

        Monash University, Australia

[email protected]

Annie Jeffery 

       Loughborough University       Boise State University   

[email protected]

Emily East 

       Primtionary (UK)

[email protected]

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