The purpose of this chapter is to explore the contexts that teachers can create to promote collaborative learning in 3D virtual learning environments. The authors report on the findings of a case study using the 3D virtual world Second Life in a preservice teacher distance education program. Two types of contexts are identified: social interaction (social context) and instructor's scaffolding (pedagogical context). The anonymity represented by avatars in the 3D environment allowed learners to engage in social interaction and practice collaboration skills. Scaffolding involved several stages: scaffold the students' learning of the new technology, plan the course structure, implement the procedures during the lesson, and facilitate transitions between activities. The study also identifies the potential for a third context (emotional context), as the participants—both the instructor and the students—report a need to express emotions in many situations, but the environment does not seamlessly support this mode of communication.
Creating Contexts for Collaborative Learning in a 3D Virtual World for Distance Education