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3 Theoretical Basis for Learning in Virtual Worlds

We already emphasized the importance of making tacit knowledge of experts explicit and to make use of the potential of VR for its documentation. In this section we start by identifying basic learning theories for a suitable didactic design of virtual learning environments. Learning environments should provide certainty of action, especially in dangerous situations and activities which require a high level of competence. If a proper prototype does not yet exist, a qualification is already possible in the process of developing.

VR based learning environments can be classified to Leontjevs activity theory [12]. Following this theory from 1977, knowledge of employees is not only represented in their heads, but also in their working activities. In 1987 Engeström [13] extended this theory with aspects of learning and development processes. It results in the so called activity system (Fig. 1) which contains the subject (e.g. the acting technician), the object (e.g. a maintenance task) and the integration to a community of practice (e.g. a group of experts for the maintenance of a special device). Furthermore it is embedded to an organization with its rules and values that influence the handling and decision making of employees. All parameters of the activity system influence the outcome.

The quality of the outcome can be improved by assigning a well-designed didactical learning setting that is represented in the triangle of subject, object and mediating artifacts.

The paper at hand focuses on this triangle of the activity system, describes basic didactic theories from vocational education and puts them in relation to learning theories with respect to their application in VR based learning environments.

Fig. 1. Activityand learning theory according to Engeström 1987 [13]

Based on the current state of the learners knowledge, the learning objectives are defined. Therefore the following aspects have to be taken into account: learner, types of knowledge, learning objectives, the learning content and organizational structures within the company.

3.1 The Learner in the Context of a Community

According to Dreyfus and Dreyfus [14] becoming an expert in a domain is highly dependent upon a developmental progression from novice to advanced beginner to expertise.

The authors identify () five stages of competence development and the four corresponding developmental learning areas. (They) have a hypothetical function for the identification of thresholds and stages in the development of occupational competence and identity [15]. Though, they also have a didactic function in the development of work-related and structurally oriented vocational courses.

When considering a person whose skills are developing from deficient to competent Lave and Wenger [16] state that the quality of their learning situation becomes crucial to the learning outcome. [15]. The authors point out that learning as a path from inability to ability is accomplished as a process of integration into the community of practice of those who already demonstrate expertise. [15]

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