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Developing scaffolded virtual learning environments for people with autism

Virtual Environments offer the potential for users to explore social situations and experience different behaviour responses for a variety of simulated social interactions. One of the challenges for the VE developer is how to construct the VE to allow freedom of exploration and flexibility in interactive behaviour, without the risk of users deliberately or inadvertently missing important learning goals. The program has to be structured to guide the user in their learning and to take into account different levels of ability. This embedded ‘scaffolding’ within the VE software can aid the user’s learning in different contexts, such as individual, tutored or group learning situations. This thesis looks at the design and implementation of desktop VEs in a classroom for teaching social skills to people with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). The first part of the thesis looks at work carried out as part of the AS Interactive project, a multidisciplinary research project using User Centred Design principles. VEs developed with the help of teachers and users were constantly refined in an iterative design process with evaluations and observations of the use of the VEs in the classroom to assess the effectiveness of elements used to scaffold the VEs. The last part of the thesis looks at work continued by the author after the end of the AS Interactive project after recommendations in that project for the VEs to fit the needs of the individual. Individualisation is researched with a number of demonstration and prototype VEs developed to help obtain information from autism experts and teachers on how best to individualise a learning VE for people with autism. The outcomes of this thesis include an exploration of the role of the programmer within a multi-disciplinary research group and the iterative development of VEs. A number of recommendations on how to scaffold VEs and make them usable in the classroom are then made. Finally recommendations are made on features and scenarios that could be useful in individualised learning VEs for people with autism and which require further evaluation in a classroom.
Date January 2005
CreatorsKerr, Steven John
PublisherUniversity of Nottingham
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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