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Castle, J. L.
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Background. The increasing societal reliance on emerging technology is demanding much more of those planning a career in the computing profession than technical ability alone. Many contemporary roles require business contact and therefore soft skills are an essential component of capability. However, the association between those who are inherently drawn to a career in computing and low empathizing, high systemizing (LEHS) tendencies could impair their future performance. Therefore, it is important for higher education to both recognize this need and devise strategies to ensure that the required soft skills are developed as early as possible.\ud Aim. To evaluate the ability of virtual world technology, through its characteristics of immersion, identity and interaction, to foster the soft skills identified as presenting the most difficulty for those with a LEHS disposition as part of their higher education experience.\ud Method. A variety of virtual world activities were introduced to an undergraduate applied computing programme in order to target the following areas: coping with changes in routine, verbal and non-verbal communication, the application of play/imagination and the development of social relationships. The study was guided by the students’ position on the Autism Quotient continuum and a range of quantitative/qualitative methods were applied to assess student performance, as well as their perception of the intervention.\ud Result. It was found that achievement was generally improved for all students in areas that involved virtual world activities. Although the soft skills attainment appeared to be delayed in those with LEHS tendencies, it was seen as being more significant than those below the average AQ threshold, with a noticeable impact in areas of extreme difficulty.\ud Conclusion. The achievement, apparent in all computing students, was expedient in terms of educational practicality. However, the study suggests that VW activities could be used as an engaging device to provide a technical solution to the acquisition of non-technical skills, particularly for those exhibiting LEHS traits.

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