What is it about?

Virtual environments (such as Second Life) provide a unique platform for learning. All too often they are used to support the traditional model of education (for example, when typical classrooms - desks and blackboard - are recreated online). However, virtual worlds offer unique opportunities for an alternative approach. We can use them in ways that make students active participants and creators of their own learning experience and help them practice collaborative problem-solving in meaningful contexts. That's what we did in our study: we used Second Life, an open-ended virtual environment in which you can get your avatar a tattoo, fly a dragon, dance at a party and surf in the ocean, in a new way. The students worked in groups and did something they couldn't do in real life: drastically hanged their avatar look, built a constructivist classroom, and put a dragon on the roof of the instructor in-world house. They were in control over their learning in Second Life - to the point when they rebelled against the instructor in the online world. Surprisingly, they didn't show the same pushback in the face-to-face settings. For practitioners, our research suggests two important points: (1) We encourage using virtual worlds in ways that challenge traditional classroom hierarchies and pave the way to new approaches to teaching and learning - instead of recreating traditional classrooms online. (2) When students take ownership of their learning in the virtual world, instructors might face pushback when they challenge their students' decisions.

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Why is it important?

This research shows that virtual worlds can be used to create new, unique educational experiences that are hard to achieve in traditional classrooms.


This research provides a different view on the use of virtual worlds in education. If you are interested in using Dewey's educational principles in the classroom or exploring the use of virtual worlds as a researcher, I believe this article may be a useful resource in your endeavors!

Irina Kuznetcova
The Ohio State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Virtual Reality: Its Transformative Potential, August 2017, Springer Science + Business Media,
DOI: 10.1007/978-981-10-5678-9_13.
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