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-- the Labyrinth May 1993 --

- An Experimental Learning Community

Phoenix College is currently experimenting with a new space for learning - the virtual school. The virtual school is based on some of the most contemporary experimental work in the use of abstract space - virtual reality. In virtual reality systems, users become participants in an abstract space where the physical machine and physical viewer do no exist. Virtual reality (VR) is complex both conceptually and technologically. VR is something more than the sum of its technologies - it is a communication media where the participant explores, plays, and discovers through interactions with this computer-generated world. In virtual reality, the participant use accounterments such as head- mounted stereoscopic displays, gloves, bodysuits, and audio systems to create the illusion of a realistic 3-D world with which to interact.

What is the MUSE?

In the MUSE, the participant uses no accounterments and have no visual stimuli. The stimuli and the experiences in the MUSE come from one's own creativity and imagination. Students are transported to this abstract space via a computer into a world of text. In the MUSE, a participant is connected to a server (the MUSE) which has a database full of objects, people, places, etc. The time spent in this environment involves interaction with the characters of the database. Interactions with characters most commonly take place in interior or exterior spaces called rooms. It is the characters of the MUSE who are able to manipulate the environment and interact with one another. MUSE supports a multi-player/character setting where many computer users can connect simultaneously to the server and partake of the virtual reality together.

The MariMUSE - the MUSE at Maricopa

There are several classes at Phoenix College and Mesa currently experimenting with the MUSE environment for learning. Billie Hughes is using MariMUSE as part of her EDU221 course. Jim Walters also at PC is currently using the MUSE and so is Greg Swan at Mesa Community College.

The Think Tank Project is proposing a virtual school for at- risk children at Longview Elementary School in Phoenix. The goal of this project is to improve student's reading, writing, and self-esteem through interactions with this highly motivational environment. Students would spend 3 hours a day in virtual space, communicating with others around the country, learning to use electronic mail, discovering information resources on the network, and building their own space in the virtual community. The MUSE environment provides support to student projects via volunteers from across the country connected by Internet. Currently, volunteers from Cleveland Freenet provide support for our community college students.

MariMUSE and Learning

The MariMUSE offers unlimited possibilities to explore new avenues for learning, discovery, and creativity as well as the use of alternative measures for assessment. Issues currently being investigated and discussed are the following:

Information for this article was compiled by Cynthia Leshin from an interview with Billie Hughes, a Think Tank proposal, a ICTE Panel, and a manual written by Edward L. Wallace on multi-user simulated environments.

Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (MCLI)
The Internet Connection at MCLI is Alan Levine --}
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