Belfast Telegraph

'Virtual worlds' work up for award

University of Ulster researchers using "virtual worlds" to train the next generation of students have been nominated for a top UK teaching award, it has been revealed.

The team at the university's Magee campus in Londonderry has been shortlisted for a prestigious Times Higher Education Award for their contribution to information and communications technologies.

Formed three years ago, the Serious Games and Virtual Worlds team (SGVW) is quickly gaining an international reputation for cutting-edge innovation in a new and constantly evolving field.

Video game technology is maturing and becoming a serious educational tool, with Ulster and many universities using "Second Life" and other virtual world platforms as teaching and learning aids.

Lecturer and SGVW team leader Michael Callaghan said: "We are delighted our 'Engineering Education Island' project has been shortlisted for this prestigious award by leading UK educational experts."

Research associate Kerri McCusker added: "Virtual worlds provide the ideal platform to engage the next generation of learners and we are excited that we have this opportunity to disseminate our work to a wider audience."

The project team also includes Julio Lopez Losada, Dr Jim Harkin and Dr Shane Wilson.

The SGVW's main focus is on creating flexible 3D virtual world technology and expanding its use in the university teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The pioneering computing engineers are based in the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC), which is part of the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering. The team has been nominated in the Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year category.

Mr Callaghan said: "The Engineering Education Island project demonstrates the benefits of linking virtual worlds and virtual learning environments in the creation of the next generation of teaching tools. It allows students to learn collaboratively and competitively in immersive spaces in engaging and innovative ways."

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