Online education and the metaverse


Annotated Bibliography of Games in Virtual Worlds Teaching

Alexander, B. (2008). Deepening the chasm: Web 2.0, gaming, and course management systems. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(2), 198-204. Link to issue:

Web 2.0 has emerged into a large, growing, and developing world of content and platforms. Gaming has rapidly expanded into a global industry. In contrast course management systems have developed along very different lines. We examine ways for the CMS to connect with these two worlds, outlining areas for possible development: increased hyperlinking, internal platforms and instances, and extruded applications. Additionally we consider ways by which the CMS can learn strategically and conceptually from Web 2.0 and gaming. Keywords: Web 2.0, gaming, course management systems, learning management systems, virtual learning environments, social media

deNoyelles, A., Hornik, S. R., & Johnson, R. D. (2014). Exploring the dimensions of self-efficacy in virtual world learning: Environment, task, and content. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(2), 255–271.

This study explores the dimensionality of college students’ self-efficacy related to their academic activities in the open-ended virtual world of Second Life (SL). To do this, relevant dimensions of self-efficacy were theoretically derived, and items to measure these dimensions were developed and then assessed using a survey methodology. Using data from 486 students enrolled in an introductory accounting course supplemented by the use of SL, the results of this study confirm the distinction of three dimensions of self-efficacy: Virtual World-Environment Self-Efficacy (VWE-SE), Learning Domain Self-Efficacy (LD-SE), and Virtual World-Learning Domain Self-Efficacy (VWLD-SE). Additionally, this study found that both VWE-SE and VWLD-SE were correlated with course learning. Implications for research and course design are discussed. Keywords: virtual world, three-dimensional multi-user virtual environment (3D MUVE), Second Life, self-efficacy, financial accounting education

Hai-Jew, S. (2009). Exploring the immersive parasocial: Is it you or the thought of you? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(3), 550-561.

Immersive and persistent 3D virtual spaces have been adopted for e-learning in higher education. These spaces involve multi-sensory, real-time interactivity with other learners through high-fidelity, human-embodied avatars as well as automated ‘bots; these involve virtual contexts that situate various types of learning. Practitioners have discussed promoting immersive addictions to support long-term, deep-transfer, and complex systems-based learning. The social presences of human-embodied avatars, in individuals and groups, and their communications-heavy interactivity, have encouraged the development of parasocial relationships in several forms: self-love of people for their own avatars (which they may build up with a range of attractive features and digital powers), and other-love for others’ online personas. Understanding the parasocial spectrum will be important for those heading into immersive multiverses, especially with campuses starting to offer full-service virtual and distance support systems that encourage distance learning without the hybrid / blended or any aspect of face-to-face (F2F). This position paper explores ways to build immersive learning and to communicate to elicit the salutary parasocial effects while avoiding possible negative ones. Keywords: parasocial, 3D immersive, persistent virtual space, human-embodied avatar, social presence, virtual relationships, multiverses, haptics

Jenner, S., Zhao, M., & Foote, T. H. (2010). Teamwork and team performance in online simulations: The business strategy game. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2), 416-430.

Many variables affect teamwork and team performance on assignments, including student characteristics, the delivery mode, and instructors’ decisions about assignment design. In this study, the online assignment was a computer simulation of a competitive industry, the Business Strategy Game. Links between student teams’ performance and the delivery mode (online versus on-campus) and some of the instructors’ decisions regarding how to structure the simulation assignment were examined. Online delivery was correlated with significantly lower student team performance compared to on-campus delivery. On the other hand, while larger class size and smaller team size had negative effects on a student team’s performance for on-campus courses, class size, and team size did not matter online. In other words, team performance with online delivery was not constrained by class size or team size as it was on-campus. It was determined that instructors can improve team performance by making key choices when designing and delivering online simulation assignments. For on-campus delivery, allowing more class time for more frequent teamwork discussions was found to lead to higher team performance. Larger teams of 4-6 students outperformed smaller teams using on-campus delivery. Keywords: teamwork, team performance, strategic management, online simulation, business strategy game

Mabrito, M. (2012). Student as avatar: A study of informational preferences in a virtual world class. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(2), 111–121.

There is a growing interest among educators in exploring multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) such as Second Life as platforms for distance learning and other applications. Yet, the notion that virtual worlds also provide an opportunity for writing instructors to teach about multimodal texts and new media literacies is an area that has received less attention. This study examined the informational preferences of avatars (students) who were members of a class that met online in the virtual world of Second Life. Specifically, the purpose was to assess avatars’ informational preferences from among three different media: print articles, machinima, and direct exploration within Second Life while enrolled in a course studying virtual worlds. It was found that avatars expressed a greater preference for information gathered from machinima and information gathered firsthand from Second Life than print-based information. However, over time, they expressed a greater preference for information drawn directly from Second Life. Their subsequent discussions about the information varied in specificity, depending on the medium they were referencing. Keywords: virtual worlds, multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), avatars, Second Life, informational preferences, new media literacies

McDaniel, R., & Telep, P. (2009). Best practices for integrating game-based learning into online teaching. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 424-438.

This article presents ten guidelines for the effective use of video games in online teaching environments for post-secondary instructors. These guidelines include: taking advantage of existing resources, asking students to be producers instead of just consumers, avoiding being overly prescriptive, being aware of non-media-intense and non-electronic games, staying focused on learning—not technology, orienting and debriefing students as to the value of gaming activities, embracing interdisciplinarity, taking advantage of serious games, considering collaborative technologies and virtual worlds, and playtesting. Recent research in game-based learning is considered to help guide these best practices and numerous ideas for incorporating games into the virtual classroom are provided. Although empirical research about the effectiveness of online video games as educational tools is an important component for sustainability and for improving online learning games, this paper focuses exclusively on the theoretical and applied issues associated with online game-based learning. The authors contend that such teaching practices are useful for engaging with student audiences and encouraging them to take intellectual risks in comfortable and familiar territory. Keywords: video games, engagement, play, game theory, teaching, pedagogy, applied research, game-based technology, guidelines, best practices

McKerlich, R., Anderson, T., Riis, M., & Eastman, B. (2011). Student perceptions of teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence in a virtual world. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 324–336. Link to issue:

Presence – or having a sense of active participation – in distance education has increased with the expanding use of and affordances of communications technologies. Virtual worlds have been on the forefront of popular and education technology in the last three years and innovative methods of teaching and learning are emerging in these contexts. Using the recently validated community of inquiry (COI) instrument, this study focuses on students’ perceptions of teaching, social and cognitive presence in virtual world contexts. The authors examine whether the COI Instrument can effectively be applied to virtual world learning events. The results are exciting: in a diverse sample, virtual world learners perceive teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence. Keywords: community of inquiry, virtual worlds, teaching presence, social presence, cognitive presence

Meggs, S. M., Greer, A. G., & Collins, S. (2011). Integrating Second Life as a pedagogical tool for interactive instruction. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 380–392.

Technology advances at such a rapid pace that its effective application in higher education is often overlooked and poorly researched prior to its implementation in teaching strategies. The union of technology and pedagogical relevance is a developmental process requiring a review of course goals and objectives and a consideration of whether the technological applications serve to enhance the delivery of instruction. It also requires a well-developed system for delivery of technology instruction that is integrated into the curricular schedule. A strong support staff must be available to facilitate the use of technical applications and to solve problems. This paper provides a case study of the process of designing an innovative curriculum for an introductory lab course in interior design. The course, titled Interior Design Fundamentals Laboratory, provides a conceptual and skills foundation for future interior design professionals. The pedagogy is structured as a collaborative service-learning model incorporating Second Life virtual reality as a delivery mechanism for enhancing the depth of instruction. Relevancy to the millennial generation is considered in the context of the culture of the contemporary teaching and learning environment. The potential for extending applications for global communication and professional exchange is explored. Second Life supports self-directed learning by providing product review, peer interaction, and opportunities for research and critical analysis. The practical, systematic integration of Second Life into a pedagogical framework is feasible and relevant for a wide variety of applications. Keywords: virtual learning, interior design, service-learning

Mennecke, B., Hassall, L. M., & Triplett, J. (2008). The mean business of Second Life: Teaching entrepreneurship, technology and e-commerce in immersive environments. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(3), 339–348.

Second Life is a three-dimensional multi-user virtual environment with a vibrant economy, where avatars (virtual representations of users) can engage in innovative and unique business and collaborative activities. The immersive nature of this application creates ample authentic opportunities for teaching entrepreneurship, technology and e-commerce. This article describes a Masters of Business Administration elective course, in which Second Life was utilized to teach strategic and managerial issues related to e-commerce. The collected data indicate that the students in this course experienced a steep learning curve with regards to the complicated interface of Second Life, its complex social canvas and non-traditional framing of teaching and learning. The article discusses an array of pedagogical issues to be considered in the design and development of an immersive course.

Keywords: e-commerce, virtual worlds, business education, immersive environments, learning activities

Parise, S., & Crosina, E. (2012). How a mobile social media game can enhance the educational experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(3), 209–222.

The rise of experiential learning has challenged traditional delivery models and led to an increase in the application of gaming to promote learning in higher education. As such, computer-based games are being used more and more to motivate students, encourage engagement, and ultimately improve learning outcomes. Games, overall, are well aligned with a constructivist model of learning in which students become active participants in the learning process through exploration. The education environment through social media gaming, in particular, changes from passive to active as learning activities require active engagement and tend to leverage one’s personal experiences. This case study illustrates the benefits students in a blended learning course derive from using a game designed on the SCVNGR platform for smartphones. Feedback from students indicates increased collaborative learning and teamwork. The case study further elaborates on the broader advantages, challenges, and opportunities of using various digital games for learning and teaching in higher education. Keywords: digital games, gamification, constructivist learning, experiential learning, social media, mobile learning

Rajasingham, L. (2009). The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) systems on future university paradigms. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 386–394.

This paper explores the potential of artificial intelligent (AI) systems in the university’s core functions of teaching, learning and knowledge nexus, against the background of rapid technological change, globalisation and challenges facing universities to respond to societies’ needs in the knowledge age. As knowledge and innovation will drive competitive economic advantage in increasingly Internet defined infrastructures, a new university paradigm is needed where telecommunications and computers replace roads, buildings and transport technology that underpinned the industrial university that operated in the industrial age. As the Internet a global communication tool continues to impact on all human activities and enterprise changing the way we shop, bank, do business, entertain ourselves, communicate and think, it is radically changing how, when and what we learn. This paper introduces the idea of a HyperClass based on HyperReality, an advanced form of distributed virtual reality where physical reality and virtual reality, and human intelligence and artificial intelligence intermesh and interact to provide anyone, anywhere, anytime learning, in which teaching could be done by Just in Time Artificially Intelligent Tutors (JITAITs) that will pop up when needed, whilst students use avatars –online simulacra of themselves – to interact as telepresences in classes from different countries and locations. Keywords: modern university paradigm, virtual university, Internet, globalization, avatars, HyperClass, just in time artificially intelligent tutor (JITAIT)

Ryu, D. (2011). Non-native English speakers’ multiliteracy learning in beyond-game culture: A sociocultural study. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(2), 231–243.

The popularity of video games carries implications in game players’ first (L1) and second language (L2) literacy. Based on the sociocultural theory and the New London Group’s multiliteracies, non-native English speakers’ asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) in beyond-game culture was analyzed to identify their traditional and new literacy learning moments. Discourse analysis of their CMC interactions presented multimodal, multilingual, multicultural as well as traditional literacy learning from participation in beyond-game affinity space, which had educational implications for L1 and L2 literacy learning. Teachers as well as researchers need to consider how to bridge these emerging literacy practices to an existing literacy curriculum. Keywords: gaming, game play, beyond-game culture, affinity space, participatory culture, multiliteracies, computer-mediated communication

Sanders, R. L., & Melton, S. J. (2010). The AETZone experience: A qualitative analysis of the use of presence pedagogy in a 3D immersive learning environment. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(1), 62–70.

Faculty in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies at Appalachian State University have utilized AETZone, a 3D virtual world to deliver graduate coursework for the past nine years. Instruction has been guided by the Reich College of Education’s social constructivist conceptual framework, resulting in a learning environment that emphasizes the social construction of knowledge through interaction with others within virtual communities of practice. Over time, certain teaching and learning behaviors and practices that reflect both the tenets of the social constructivist framework and the features of the virtual world have organically developed through faculty and student engagement in this unique learning space and have been referred to as Presence Pedagogy (P2). However, for this new pedagogical approach to serve as a model for future instruction, a more articulate operational definition of this model is needed. Therefore, the research question discussed in this paper is: To what extent is the Presence Pedagogy framework reflected in the actions and behaviors of students and faculty in the AETZone? The authors conclude that while the overall characteristics of P2 are supported, a gap exists in the model regarding interactions that are more social in nature. While social interaction may be implied in the P2 framework, more attention and emphasis is needed in terms of creating and maintaining this AETZone experience. Keywords: social constructivism, presence pedagogy, virtual worlds, AETZone, presence, interaction

Schofield, D. (2012). Mass effect: A chemical engineering application of virtual reality simulator technology. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(1), 83–78.

Advanced three-dimensional (3D) virtual reality (VR) technology similar to that used by the film and computer game industries can allow educational developers to rapidly create realistic online virtual environments. This technology has been used to generate a range of online VR-based learning environments across a broad spectrum of industries and educational application areas. This idea is not new; flight simulators have been used for decades to train pilots for both commercial and military aviation. There are a number of lessons that can be learned from the industries that have successfully utilized virtual training and learning systems. Generic rules of thumb regarding the specification, development, application, and operation of these learning environments can be garnered from these industrial training systems and examined in an educational context. In this paper, an online VR-based system developed by the author, ViRILE (Virtual Reality Interactive Learning Environment), is introduced. This software is designed for use by undergraduate chemical engineers and simulates the configuration and operation of a polymerization plant. During the implementation of this and other visual learning environments, a number of complex operational problems were encountered that have required a number of innovative solutions and management procedures to be developed. The implementation of this and other similar systems is also discussed in this paper, and the lessons learned are extrapolated into general pedagogical guidelines to be considered for the development of VR-based online educational learning resources. Keywords: virtual reality, simulation, chemical engineering education, learning technology, training, guidelines

Smith, M., & Berge, Z. L. (2009). Social learning theory in Second Life. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 439-445.

One of the current trends in distance education is the use of multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) as a training platform. MUVEs are being used for both formal and informal online learning. Second Life is a popular MUVEs being used for education today. Teaching and learning in Second Life requires a paradigm shift by educators, researchers, and learners who must adapt to a new environment of teaching and learning. Although things are done differently, many traditional learning theories can apply to Second Life. Examples of Albert Bandura’s social learning theory in Second Life are explored in this paper.Keywords: Second Life, social learning theory, MUVE, multi-user virtual environment, virtual worlds, Bandura

Soto, V. J. (2013). Which instructional design models are educators using to design virtual world instruction? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3), 364–375.

The purpose of this study was to identify which instructional design (ID) models are currently used in designing virtual world instruction and why. The goal was to identify specific ID elements being used to develop virtual world instruction that enable effective utilization of the technology to support desired learning experiences for students. A review of the literature revealed that there was limited current research about how ID models are being used to develop instruction in virtual world environments. Although previous research studies have focused on understanding how existing ID models are suitable for designing and developing web-based instruction, research was not found that explains how ID models are being used to develop instruction in virtual world environments. Through the study, it was discovered that analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (ADDIE) was the most commonly used process for the design of virtual world instruction. It was also deemed the most appropriate since ADDIE summarizes five phases of an ID process. Essential ID elements were also generated to design and develop virtual world instruction. Keywords: virtual world, 3D multi-user virtual environment (3D MUVE), instructional design, ADDIE model

Vogel-Walcutt, J. J., Del Giudice, K., Fiorella, L., & Nicholson, D. (2013). Using a video game as an advance organizer: Effects on development of procedural and conceptual knowledge, cognitive load, and casual adoption. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3), 376–392.

This paper reports on a study aimed at investigating whether a video game can act as an advance organizer for teaching a military call for fire task in order to improve learning efficiency. Participants were 23 males and 45 females, randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Conditions were developed by a 2 x 2 matrix using video games with and without advance organizers to enhance decision-making skills. Participants completed two increasing levels of training that were followed by posttests in several areas. Results indicate that commercial, off-the-shelf video games do not appear to increase learning effectiveness. However, individuals who utilized an educationally relevant video game prior to learning reported more interest in continuing to learn. Unfortunately, they also reported investing higher cognitive load to acquire equal knowledge compared to the traditional outline advance organizer. These data support recent findings that suggest that ill-structured game-based learning environments can impede learning outcomes due to the extraneous cognitive load imposed by gaming elements. Keywords: advance organizer, video game, knowledge acquisition, cognitive load, casual adoption
Wang, C. X., Anstadt, S., Goldman, J., & Lefaiver, M. L. M. (2014). Facilitating group discussions in Second Life. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 139–152.

This paper reports on a case study of group facilitation in Second Life, a three-dimensional virtual world that simulates places either in the real or imaginary worlds with capabilities of synchronous communications in text, gesture, and audio formats. The participants were four graduate students facilitating group discussions in a virtual world called Second Life. The study took a qualitative approach revealing the essence of group facilitation in a virtual world (e.g., Second Life). The article discusses five important themes that emerged through data analysis and offers implications and suggestions for group facilitators to work in a virtual world like Second Life. Keywords: virtual world, 3D multi-user virtual environment (3D MUVE), Second Life, group discussion, group facilitation, synchronous communication

Wang, F., Burton, J. K., & Falls, J. (2012). A three-step model for designing initial Second Life-based foreign language learning activities. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(4), 324-333.

The use of three-dimensional virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL) to support foreign language learning and teaching has been receiving increasing attention over the last decade. A review of the literature revealed a lack of activity design models for SL-based foreign language learning. This paper proposes a model that may be used by foreign language educators to design initial SL-based learning activities for their students. The suggested model integrates three language-learning features to contribute to effective language learning, to satisfy students’ preference for working in groups, and to reduce SL’s chances of crashing. The model also provides a mechanism for moderating SL’s steep learning curve. Keywords: Second Life, foreign language learning, computer-assisted language learning (CALL), learning design