One of the main arguments for using MUDs/MOOs in an educational environment is the opportunity they offer for multi-participant synchronous communication over the Internet. Whilst this is also possible using IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and other synchronous protocols, MOOs also provide a sense of virtual space that mimics the real world. This metaphorical sense of being somewhere serves a number of useful purposes. Psychologically it is important, as it makes users feel more comfortable to have common reference points and not be adrift in the ether. Moreover, Harris points out that (these) environments strongly influence the activities that take place there. For example, within Diversity University's virtual university campus are lounges, offices, conference rooms, classrooms, living rooms and so on, each with a different purpose and with different objects associated with them. Even without any additional prompting, people's conversations and modes of behaviour can be affected by the mere fact that they visualise themselves as being in a particular kind of room talk is likely to be less formal in a lounge than in a classroom for example.
Guide to Online Teaching: Existing Tools & Projects. Stuart Lee, Paul Groves, Christopher Stephens, and Susan Armitage. JTAP Reports. The entire article is available at http://www.jtap.ac.uk/reports/htm/jtap-028.html; clicking on this link will open a new browser window, which you should close to return to the main page.Creative Teaching with Internet Technology