Winner of HEFCE / UnLtd Award for Enterprising and innovative work

A tour of VIRTAUT, the Second Life Island I created as part of my practice-based PhD and to help children with autism communicate and share learning experiences. Worked in conjunction with a school in Surrey (Linden Bridge, Worcester Park).


As previously mentioned this was a project as part of practice-based PhD programme at UCD, Ireland. The PhD was supervised by Dr. Parsons (Southampton University) and Dr. Clarke (UCL). The practice-based aspect of the project (embedding a VW into a classroom) was carried out in Linden Bridge School. An outstanding school (as judged by OFSTED), in Surrey.

This PhD is being conducted at UCD and within the School of Education as a practice-based project. The reason for this is partly because a case study approach is being employed, apposed to a more typically expected experimental methodology. This is mainly to better understand the users perspective and a recognition that social phenomena within the context of individual behaviours, can provide a rich and deep understanding of lives, attitudes and beliefs.

This study, therefore, aims to simulate a scenario in a virtual world that enables a number of children to interact and communicate as they might in the real world. This will be performed in a classroom where facilitation can take place to provide some formal structure and scaffolded learning. Furthermore, the use of a virtual world will enable access to facial expression and bodily-gestures through easy to find buttons, to provide a way for users to communicate their feelings (and communicate with) others in this environment.

The aim of the project is to ascertain whether virtual worlds can be used (in conjunction with communication tools; facial expression being one) to help people with autism communicate more effectively. Some studies have already produced some encouraging results that highlight how virtual reality and virtual environments can help people with ASCs communicate and explore understanding of social awareness and development, in addition to generalisation of tasks (Strickland et al 1996; Cromby et al 1996; Moore et al 2000; Moore et al 2005; Fabri et al 2004; Fabri & Moore 2005; Mitchell et al 2007; Parsons et al 2004; Parsons et al 2005, Parsons et al 2006; Fabri 2006). This study aims to take this a stage further and experiment with the use a virtual world to replicate a series of environments (shops, classroom, café, street, etc.) with an intention to assess communication and interaction concluding with generalisation of tasks to the real-world.


You can also download a version of the participant information leaflet: For more details please download here [part-info-leaflet.pdf]


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