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Dr Olinkha Gustafson-Pearce
HP Lecturer - Mechanical Engineering

Research area(s)

Keywords: Information Architecture; information design; Virtual Learning Environments; virtual worlds; education + virtual worlds; building + virtual worlds; navigation + virtual worlds; digital tools + virtual worlds; wayfinding + virtual worlds.

Research Interests

Olinkhas’ main focus is Virtual Brunel which is the Brunel University London Web 3D platform. It is a fully immersive 3D world in which students, staff and visitors meet and interact in a simulated virtual campus.. Virtual 3D worlds are digital, computer based worlds that enable their users to ‘immerse’ into a generated three-dimensional reality, through the use of advanced computer graphics. In these worlds they can experience events and interact with other individuals in ‘real’ time. Even though Virtual Worlds are often seen as 3D Games, these worlds are places where communities are born. Each person who belongs to these kinds of communities can find like-minded people to talk to, whether this is to share information, or just to meet new people and experience new things. The use of Web 3D virtual worlds for educational institutions is becoming more widespread, with hundreds of universities globally, using this platform. Many leading universities now have a significant ‘presence’ in the virtual world of Second Life. The main uses of this technology have been for the delivery of ‘distance learning’ as well as marketing and promoting the university, and the courses and research, that is carried out by them. Olinkha has designed and built virtual Brunel which now consists of 5 sims and is collaborating with Schools and Departments across the university to enable students and staff to meet and interact in the virtual environment. There are a number of projects ongoing to discover the best ways to use this environment at Brunel.


Module Leader for Graphics specialising in Information Architecture, Virtual Learning Environments and Virtual Worlds.

Research grants and projects

Project details

Virtual Brunel has been an ongoing project since 2007 and during that time a number of research projects have been conducted. Funding has been raised from various Schools and Departments within Brunel University London.

Developing and studying student engagement in a virtual learning and social environment for Distance Learners.

Students who study at a distance are separated both from their tutors and their peers. This poses general problems to all learners and significant problems to some. Social interaction - the sharing of ideas, discoveries, successes and failures and general social support - are often missing from the distance learning environment. Students frequently feel isolated, start to lose motivation, experience frustration or anger (Wheeler 2007), and a host of other unwelcome emotions which may lead to dropping out of their course (Martz and Shepherd 2007).This study considers these issues in relation to distance learners on the AMEE programme and seeks to develop methods through the virtual world environment, to overcome them. (£5973.00 from L&T Innovation fund)