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Situating pedagogies, positions and practices in immersive virtual worlds



Background: The literature on immersive virtual worlds and e-learning to date largely indicates that technology has led the pedagogy. Although rationales for implementing e-learning have included flexibility of provision and supporting diversity, none of these recommendations has helped to provide strong pedagogical location. Furthermore, there is little, if any, exploration of the kinds of e-learning spaces that are commonly adopted in higher education or the rationale for their use.Purpose: This article explores the current arguments for the use of immersive virtual worlds in higher education and examines the impact the use of such environments is having upon teachers and teaching.Design and methods: A comprehensive literature search and review was undertaken by a team of researchers in order to explore issues of pedagogy, staff role and digital literacies, and explore perspectives that might inform the higher education community about views on the use of immersive virtual worlds.Conclusions: It is suggested that an exploration of digital literacies and the use of pedagogically informed models may offer higher education some purchase on the complex issues and implications of using such immersive virtual worlds for learning.
Situating pedagogies, positions and
practices in immersive virtual worlds
Savin-Baden, M. , Gourlay, Lesley , Tombs, Cathy , Steils, N. ,
Tombs, G. and Mawer, M.
Author post-print (accepted) deposited in CURVE January 2015
Original citation & hyperlink:
Savin-Baden, M. , Gourlay, Lesley , Tombs, Cathy , Steils, N. , Tombs, G. and Mawer, M.
(2010) Situating pedagogies, positions and practices in immersive virtual worlds. Educational
Research, volume 52 (2 Special issue: Virtual Worlds and Education): 123-133.
Publisher statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor &
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Situating pedagogies, positions and practices in immersive virtual
Maggi Savin-Baden
, Lesley Gourlay, Cathy Tombs, Nicole Steils,
Gemma Tombs, and Matt Mawer
Learning Innovation Applied Research Group, Coventry University, UK
(Received 20 July 2009)
Background: The literature on immersive virtual worlds and e-learning to date largely
indicates that technology has led the pedagogy. Although rationales for implementing e-
learning have included flexibility of provision and supporting diversity, none of these
recommendations have helped to provide strong pedagogical location. Furthermore, there
is little, if any, exploration of the kinds of e-learning spaces that are commonly adopted
in higher education or the rationale for their use.
Purpose: This article explores the current arguments for the use of immersive virtual
worlds in higher education and examines the impact the use of such environments is
having upon teachers and teaching.
Design and methods: A comprehensive literature search and review was undertaken by a
team of researchers in order to explore issues of pedagogy, staff role and digital
literacies, and explore perspectives that might inform the higher education community
about views on the use of immersive virtual worlds.
Conclusions: It is suggested that an exploration of digital literacies and the use of
pedagogically informed models may offer higher education some purchase on the
complex issues and implications of using such immersive virtual worlds for learning.
Key words: pedagogy; immersive virtual worlds; staff role; digital literacies
This article will present an overview of the current research and literature relating to
immersive worlds in higher education. It will argue that to date much of the literature
is somewhat underdeveloped in terms of its pedagogical underpinning and that in
order for development to occur in these environments there needs to be a stronger
informing pedagogy. The review presented here begins by exploring the current
Correspondence to Maggi Savin-Baden, Email:
arguments for the use of immersive virtual worlds (IVWs) and then examines the
impact the use of such environments is having upon teachers and teaching. It is then
argued that an exploration of digital literacies and the use of pedagogically informed
models may offer higher education some purchase on the complex issues and
implications of using such spaces for learning.
Immersive virtual worlds hold the potential to be used in higher education in a range
of disciplinary contexts, for a variety of educational purposes. The unique immersive
3D features offer possibilities for learning and interaction which may be distinct from
both the face-to-face environment and the more established platforms for e-learning,
such as virtual learning environments (VLEs). Immersive virtual worlds may also
offer advantages over scenario-based, activity-led and problem-based approaches that
occur in face-to-face contexts. For example, IVWs afford the possibility of exposing
learners to a wide range of scenarios (more than they are likely to meet in a standard
face-to-face programme) at a time and pace convenient to the learner, together with
consistent feedback. Learners have the opportunity to make mistakes without real-
world repercussions. Further, with the increasing use of distance programmes, IVWs
provide online learning opportunities which are sufficiently immersive and
collaborative outside the tutorial room, in ways that current VLE systems do not.
The most extensive research into student perspectives and experiences of
online learning (for example Creanor et al. 2006; Conole et al. 2006) has largely
indicated that technology has preceded the pedagogy (Cousin 2005). Despite this
Sharpe et al. (2006) have pointed out that successful institutional rationales for, and
practices of, implementing e-learning have included flexibility of provision,
supporting diversity, enhancing the campus experience, operating in a global context
and efficiency. It could be argued that some of these recommendations lack
pedagogical location in that they do not clearly reconsider differences in discipline-
based pedagogy and the need to link these with both disciplinary and intuitional
concerns relating to e-learning. Furthermore, it does appear that there is little, if any,
exploration of the kinds of online learning spaces that are commonly adopted or the
rationale for their use. For example, VLEs such as Blackboard may be used in ways
that contain and control learning (Land 2006), whereas there is a current tendency to
suggest IVWs should be used for the kinds of learning that focus on the
deconstruction of knowledges and identity work (Bayne 2005; Savin-Baden
forthcoming 2010).
The question of how, when and why particular locales are used requires
further exploration. This is because the type of space and the way in which it is used
(or not used) to manage knowledges and skilful practices will affect the kinds of
learning opportunities offered to students. However, there are a number of studies that
have specifically focused on the student’s experience. Jones and Cooke (2006) used
two case studies to explore students’ online discussions to enhance understanding of
how students learn. Students were positive overall about their online experience, even
if they did encounter problems, such as fellow students not participating in discussion
forums. Bayne (2005) studied how students and teachers experienced their identities
online, and how these related to their embodied 'real life' identities. A common
perspective amongst students emerged in which online modes of identity formation
were viewed negatively, primarily as the true self being deceitfully threatened by the
online being. Bayne’s research concluded that tutors’ use of the online space to
(re)construct themselves as authority figures was far less problematic and far less a
cause of anxiety than the identity narratives provided by students. More recently
Hemmi, Bayne and Land (2009) raised the difficulty of ‘honesty’ in such spaces,
suggesting that alternative constructions of identity were possibly seen by some as
morally wrong. However, before further discussion relating to role, identity and
literacies is undertaken, the relationship between pedagogy and IVWs will be
Pedagogy and the use of IVWs
The dilemma over the pedagogical location of IVWs is further exemplified by
uncertainty over the pedagogical value of IVWs themselves; as exhibited by the e-
learning community and the wider educational community. It has been widely
acknowledged that these worlds do present educational potential in terms of role-
playing, building and scripting items and fostering dialogic learning and social
interaction (Savin-Baden 2008). Despite many cogent arguments and the varied
possibilities for their use, there have been relatively few situated pedagogical
rationales for the use of IVWs in higher education. Whilst in some cases learning
theories have been adopted, pedagogical designs developed and IVW teaching trials
piloted, these learning theories have generally fallen into one of two categories. These
are (social) constructivist approaches to learning, which have predominantly utilised
the ‘building’ functions of IVWs (Bronack, Riedl and Tashner 2006; Mayrath et al.
2007; Good, Howland and Thackray 2008), and situated learning perspectives, many
of which utilise Kolb’s experiential learning cycle and develop role-playing scenarios
(Mayrath et al. 2007; Jamaludin, Chee and Ho 2009; Jarmon et al. 2009). It would be
helpful perhaps to situate or theorise learning in IVWs when turning to newer and
emergent learning theories, such as the supercomplexity model (Barnett 2000),
threshold concepts (Meyer and Land 2005; Land, Meyer and Smith 2008) or the
conversational framework (Laurillard 2002). Whilst these learning theories may foster
their own problems when applied to IVW learning, it is only by considering all
aspects of learning that these worlds may encourage location and contextualisation
within curricula design.
As the use of IVWs in education has advanced, trends have been recognised.
Significantly, curriculum designers have noted the potential that IVWs offer in terms
of providing a collaborative and social environment; particularly when used in
conjunction with blended distance learning courses (Bronack, Riedl and Tashner
2006; Minocha and Roberts 2008; Kemp, Livingstone and Bloomfield 2009). In some
cases this has led to a tendency to focus only on the social aspects of the IVW, using it
solely as a ‘virtual classroom’. Minocha and Roberts (2008) have further identified a
wish to improve avatar expressions and responses within the IVW which, coupled
with a Second Life campus which replicates their university campus, suggests that the
main reason for using the IVW in this case is to transfer the course from the
classroom to the ‘virtual classroom’. Whilst the social opportunities that are seen to be
fostered through IVWs have often been utilised to their full potential, in order to
situate the use of IVWs pedagogically it is essential to look beyond its obvious social
affordances and consider the pedagogical opportunities.
The project piloted by Mayrath et al. (2007) is indicative of this argument.
Two projects were carried out in separate semesters with 18 students, the first of
which required students to study the architecture of their university campus and then
build their ideal campus in Second Life, adopting a constructivist approach to
learning. After receiving results which indicated that students felt that the Second Life
activity was not relevant to the course (an English undergraduate class), Mayrath et al
redesigned the second semester activity. This was changed from a robot-making
activity to a role-playing activity based on a need to align the Second Life activity to
course content, to communicate its relevance to the student participants and to reduce
the need for Second Life facilitation training. The role-playing activity, which
suggested an implicit shift to an experiential view of learning in IVWs, encouraged
students to explore leadership by taking on the persona of a particular role model.
This was interlinked with offline activities such as reflective essay writing and
grounded within the context of the course, thus exercising the pedagogical
affordances of IVW role-play. By experimenting with and theorising about IVW
pedagogical design, Mayrath et al. shift away from utilising the environmental
affordances of the IVW towards an understanding and rationalising their use of its
pedagogical affordances. Therefore we suggest that it is essential to recognise that
pedagogical design within IVWs is advancing, as educators become more aware of
the environmental and pedagogical affordances that it can offer. Educators (such as
Edirisingha et al. 2009) in online environments have recognised the need for the
appropriation of e-learning frameworks such as Salmon’s (2005) e-moderating
framework, and there have been moves towards the development of a situated
pedagogical rationale (Lim 2009; Warburton 2009). Despite this, learning
environments within IVWs still require consideration and theorisation in order for
curriculum designers to ensure a situated pedagogy and a rationale for their use.
However, there is still work to be done here, particularly with regard to the
relationship between pedagogical design and teachers and teaching.
The impact of IVWs on teacher roles
The role of staff in higher education has changed since the growing use of
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support developing knowledge
and skilful practices (Kozma 2003). Today, university education without the use of
VLEs, for example Blackboard or WebCT, is difficult to imagine (Livingstone et al.
2008). Yet the role of staff in higher education has changed increasingly with the
advent of IVW use, such as Second Life and unsurprisingly, members of staff report
confused understanding of their roles in IVW-based teaching (McVey 2008; Bayne
2005). Although teachers find informal support when facing the technical challenges
of using IVWs (for example through wikis and mailing lists), there remains little to
guide pedagogic structuring and this is exemplified in the literature. This would seem
to be because there is a lack of understanding of the location and roles of staff when
teaching in IVWs in higher education, particularly since most research is focused on
how students perceive learning in educational IVWs (Creanor et al. 2006; Conole et
al. 2006; Sharpe et al. 2006; Larsen et al. 2008). However, Rappa et al. (2009) do
argue that the role of a teacher could be seen as a mediator or mentor to the students,
and present a framework which suggests that the three dimensions – teacher, learner,
and ICT – need to be synchronised. Yet, Rappa et al. (2009) admit that this
framework remains too narrow since it does not reflect the capacities of IVWs to
simulate real-world circumstances. Thus it would seem that teaching in IVWs needs a
different framework to guide staff as mentors or mediators.
Furthermore, an often-forgotten aspect of education is highlighted by Gaimster
(2008) who suggests that some students have an emotional dependency towards their
teachers. Moreover, Deepwell and Malik (2008) argue that students expect direction
and leadership from staff, which some staff see as necessarily and easily transferred to
teaching in IVWs. Yet, Larsen et al. (2008) argue that teachers should be seen as a
‘community of learners’. To do so, Larsen et al. argue, staff members will have to
develop four competences: knowledge about facilitation, ICT, coaching and
collaboration with students. However, given the fact that all teachers need such
expertise, it could be suggested that their argument adds little to the IVW debate.
Teaching in IVWs offers complex opportunities to develop knowledges and
skilful practices. However, such complexity can be a great challenge for staff.
Teachers see themselves in a possible dilemma between giving students expected and
needed directions, and the space and freedom to create and develop knowledge and
skills independently. Therefore the role of staff in IVWs would seem to be located
between that of mentor and mediator. Clearly, there is a need for an effective
underpinning pedagogy about how to deal with these dilemmas and complexities
effectively. Yet what is perhaps more troublesome than the lack of pedagogical
underpinning and difficulties over staff role is the lack of recognition of the need for
an exploration of literacy practices in IVWs.
Engaging with digital literacies to inform learning in IVWs
Whilst there is certainly confusion over pedagogies and staff roles there is also
uncertainty inherent in curricula integration and student literacies. Literacy practices
within IVWs are diverse, requiring users to draw upon semiotic resources and
strategies to engage with a range of modes for meaning-making (Steinkuehler 2007;
Gillen 2009). Second Life facilitates (and often requires) users to utilise streaming
video and audio media, texted synchronous chat, Voice Over Internet Protocol, to
manipulate physical appearances and create virtual objects, and a host of other web-
based multi-modal resources. Much of the potential accorded to IVWs as a
pedagogical space revolves around the leveraging of these modalities to diversify
teaching facilities and strategies (Warburton 2009; Savin-Baden 2008). Yet there is
little evident understanding of how IVW learning might require (or develop) new
literacies, nor how these new literacies might impact upon other areas of teaching. In
the domain of student literacies, IVWs lack not only pedagogical placement, but
seemingly lack a level of debate conducive to its establishment.
The multi-modal nature of the immersive virtual world setting challenges us to
address important questions about our pedagogic placement of literacies. In order to
host learning successfully, the semiotic resources required to employ modes
embedded in IVWs must be developed within some aspect of the education system. If
we attempt to underpin our incorporation of IVW learning with the notion of ‘native’
competency (Prensky 2001a, 2001b) -the assumption that being born into a computer
age necessary makes ease of use and familiarly with technology more of a possibility
than those born before the advent of computers- then we are likely to be
disappointed. Even accepting the cognitive model of a generational divide supporting
youthful (technological) exuberance toward spaces such as Second Life
, it is far from
accurate to suggest that present and future cohorts in higher education will consist
solely of the ‘millennial’ (Howe and Strauss 2000) demographic.
For a comprehensive deconstruction of the ‘digital native’ discourse, see Bayne and Ross (2007) or
Bennett, Maton and Kervin (2008).
If we are not to build upon this discourse of a priori competency, then where
do we intend to locate multi-modal literacies that may be required to enhance learning
within IVWs? As Lea (2004) has reminded us, higher education consists primarily of
written, rather than multi-modal, texts. We are thus unlikely to find the concurrent
development of multi-modal literacies through our other higher education offerings
without a significant pedagogical shift towards their incorporation. It would seem that
IVWs must support and develop the literacies that are demanded for their effective
functioning in isolation from, yet within the context of, the degree programme as a
whole. The occasional IVW module is neither presently facilitated by, nor facilitates,
a theoretical shift towards multi-modal literacy practices more widely. It may be, for
student literacies, that there is a need to engage with a unique blend of semiotic
resources which may not have been called upon before.
It is similarly unclear how we expect literacies that might develop from IVW
learning to interact with other areas of the curriculum. Whilst literacy theorists have
been mostly united in their rebuttal of the notion that writing/text has become
outmoded (see Kahn and Kellner 2005; Merchant 2007; Steinkuehler 2007; Skaar
2009), this does not mean that text (in production and representation) has remained
the same across new and old literacy spaces (see Merchant 2007; Gillen, 2009). Nor
does it necessarily mean that multi-modal aspects of literacies will exert no influence
upon perceptions, aspirations and practices in areas of teaching that do not utilise
IVWs. The incongruence between the multi-modal nature of IVWs and the primarily
textual canon of teaching and assessment presents us with a number of challenges as
to how we might reconcile disparities in approaches to developing student literacies.
Will the pedagogy of non-IVW learning modules allow for multi-modal literacies to
be expressed in teaching and assessment? Would it be academically beneficial to
support a shift away from the dominance of academic writing?
Immersive virtual worlds occupy a space of uncertainty between the
entrenched practice of writing and reading text and a multi-modality that necessitates
new blends of semiotic resources, and strategies not previously employed in higher
education. It would be short-sighted to suggest that students enter higher education
with no experience, competency or interest in multi-modal resources made prominent
by digital technology. Yet it would be similarly ill-advised to assume that cohorts of
current and future students will possess (and desire) the literacies to engage with the
teaching media that IVWs offer. Attempting to leverage multi-modal resources in
isolated incidences, without locating them within the pedagogy of courses more
generally, would seem to presuppose the discourse of a priori competency that we
have earlier attempted to dispel. Immersive virtual worlds are thus difficult to locate
within the larger domain of student literacies, and the resultant challenge, one of
pedagogical placement of (new) literacies, should be a factor for consideration prior
to engagement in IVW learning.
The following case study offers a possible pedagogical model, a location of
staff roles and an application of digital literacies that might be adopted and adapted
across other contexts:
Case study
The Problem-based Learning in Virtual Interactive Educational Worlds (PREVIEW)
project was developed, implemented and evaluated for healthcare courses – Health
and Social Care Management (Coventry University) and Paramedic (St George’s
University of London). It adopted the pedagogical approach of Model III problem-
based learning (Savin-Baden 2000), whereby problem-based learning becomes a
vehicle to bridge the gap between the know-how and know-that and between the
different forms of disciplinary knowledge in the curriculum. The PREVIEW project
was designed to take advantage of the new opportunities afforded by IVWs, and used
the virtual environment Second Life. Particular potential benefits for using problem-
based learning in a virtual world were seen to be the authenticity of a simulated real-
world environment and the open-ended nature of in-world activity.
Eight scenarios were developed – four avatar-driven scenarios (ADS) and
four information-driven scenarios (IDS). The IDS utilised multi-modal resources– for
example, videos, audio, links to external websites, and notecards (an in-world note
taking tool). The information in ADS was presented in a more interactive way, with
the student communicating directly with a ‘chatbot’ (computer-driven avatar) that
represented a key role in the scenario, such as a patient or a manager.
There were three main roles in the problem-based learning scenarios: the
student, the tutor and the facilitator. For the problem-based learning student there are
no specific ‘right’ answers but rather a multitude of outcomes for these scenarios. The
role of the facilitator is to provide guidance in relation to the scenarios and the virtual
world in general. The tutor, after designing the themes of the scenarios before the
implementation stage, then takes more of a ‘backstage’ role, such as dealing with
assessment after the students have completed the scenarios.
The evaluation included testing scenarios and examining the student and tutor
perspectives. An iterative process was used when evaluating the scenarios. Each
scenario was tested by a group of students, and qualitative feedback was used to
improve upon the scenarios before addressing another round of testing. Results
suggested that the ADS were the preferred method of problem-based learning in
Second Life, due to the level of immersiveness and authenticity – therefore the
decision was made to use only ADS subsequently.
The main underlying issue that arose from the testing sessions was the concern
of distance learners not being able to access the scenarios when necessary. Due to the
nature of the Paramedic course scenarios, the students were able to run the scenarios
themselves without the need for a facilitator. However, the Health and Social Care
Management scenarios at present require a facilitator at all times, due to the
complexity of the technologies being used in Second Life. As this is obviously not
ideal for distance learners, a web application using MOODLE (an open-source VLE)
is being developed. This will address a number of issues, in particular the concern that
the distance learners do not have the computer capacity to run Second Life, and will
not require the visual capacity that Second Life provides. It gives the ability to run the
scenarios synchronously or asynchronously and thus can be used when a facilitator is
unavailable to attend the scenario sessions.
The PREVIEW project has now been adapted to work with disciplines such as
psychology, physiotherapy and nursing; and the paramedics scenarios made available
to other higher education institutions as open source. The PREVIEW project is thus
one possible foundation to further explorations of IVW learning.
We suggest that PREVIEW offers a situated pedagogical rationale for PBL and a way
that it might be placed in a curriculum, which begins to address some of the concerns
raised in the literature. Further, it offers a template for the way in which staff might
adapt to the integration of new learning strategies (embedded in new learning theories
such as PBL and in new literacy practices) and new learning spaces. The teacher
position becomes one of facilitator and indicates a shift away from positioning and
locating staff as lecturers and purveyors of knowledge. What is also helpful is that the
ADS precipitated a shift toward multi-modality and away from entrenched (and
curricula integrated) literacy practices. However, the isolated nature of the PREVIEW
project exemplifies the uncertainty in curricula integration. As yet it is unclear as to
whether the shift towards multi-modality represents a greater move within academia
that could be facilitated such as using PBL and technologies such as IVWs.
Although it is easy to characterise the initial forays of higher education
practitioners into IVWs as under-theorised and technology-driven, it should be
recalled that the energy and enthusiasm for these developments, as with many
innovations in educational technology, has been driven by a small number of
technically literate pioneers (for example Jarmon et al. 2009). Although observable
theories from the education literature may not be widely invoked, innovators apply
implicit theory - here as in all contexts of development - working in complex interplay
with passion for change, and the particular features of context and situated practice. It
is well-noted in the literature that the learning curve for new users in IVWs is steep.
However, it should also be noted that the stakes have been very high indeed for the
first wave of module leaders who have implemented IVWs in their educational
provision (Kirriemuir 2009), and an inordinate degree of flexibility and effort has
been required of these educators and students. Successes have emerged, lessons have
been learned, and arguably the role of the practitioner-research community is now to
gather and synthesise these staff and student experiences, in order to reflect them back
to the field.
In terms of development of theory, pedagogies, roles and communicative
practices, in some respects IVWs present what appear to be a unique set of challenges,
but in fact it could be argued that these mirror the persistent questions around which
higher education research and development constantly revolve. Specifically these
might be characterised as: Why do things in this way? How do we do them to best
effect? What will these practices require us to be / feel / do? However, the particular
opportunities of IWVs undeniably represent a significant qualitative change in terms
of the nature of the environment, as has been discussed in the literature. The most
initially striking aspect of IVWs in the higher education context is the fact that they
are primarily a visual semiotic resource, as discussed above. This is noteworthy in the
context of the hitherto strongly (although not exclusively) text-dominated domain of
higher education. The kinetic 3D nature of IVWs adds another dimension of both
strangeness and possibility. Thirdly, the use of avatars introduces a set of possibilities
surrounding identity work, meaning-making and self-representation, requiring and
creating a complex set of interlocking modes of communication. These features
arguably bring into relief the need for scaffolding and effective orientation and
guidance, but also the tensions which may arise as staff seek to maximise educational
goals from within an outcomes-driven regime, and students explore the new
boundaries of a space which is so rich with associations of freedom and self-
Whether IVWs call for a new paradigm in terms of educational theory or for
an adaptation of existing models is one question to explore. The question of ‘why?’
continually returns here – the rationale for using IVWs. Only through this can the
further challenges and tensions surrounding the multiple staff and student role/s be
addressed. It is tempting to conclude that here – as in the face-to-face and more
established text-based online context - the teacher role is multiple, fluid, plural and
contingent. However, unlike these contexts, the teacher must also engage in
communicative practices and identity work which may arguably question the
‘traditional’ pedagogic relationship. How to manage this balance of innovation and
support remains the challenge here, perhaps even more than in other educational
contexts of practice.
A further radical aspect of IVWs surround the literacy and meaning-making
practices which are called forth by their use. As discussed, engagement,
communication and participation require some degree of comfort with a multimodal
visual set of semiotic resources and practices, which may be familiar to some
students, but not to all. In order to facilitate this, some development and orientation is
clearly required. However, this raises the question of the extent to which the
environment and its component modalities might become the object of learning, as
opposed to the context. From an academic literacies perspective, medium and content
are inseparable, and writing is seen as the process and locus of disciplinary meaning-
making, not a mere medium (e.g. Lea and Street 1998). Whether this model can be
extended to a combination of textual, vocal, visual and kinetic practices is a complex
question which requires detailed research and thought. A further related question is
how the development of these practices might be valued / valuable beyond the context
of their use in IVWs. Arguably, contemporary culture is becoming more visual and
complex (Skaar 2009) in terms of modes of representation and meaning. Whether or
not the use of these multimodal environments has anything to offer students beyond
the life of the module remains to be seen.
What seems to be emerging currently are three broad contexts and modes of
use: firstly for scenarios, simulations and role-plays where the semiotic resources
offer a pedagogic context not available elsewhere. This is particularly apparent in the
take-up of IVWs for problem-based learning and related approaches in which
complex decisions must be taken in real time by professional teams required to apply
theory to practice in complex and high-pressure situations. The second mode of use
seems to be more affective in its focus, using the potential for co-presence and
visibility in IVWs primarily for team work or team building, particularly in distance
contexts where participants cannot easily form these relationships outside of textual
medium. The third context of use seems to be where the environment and its
affordances are not a medium but are explicitly the focus, as in computing, design,
and architecture (Cargill-Kipar 2009). The question remains as to how the IVW
environment might be better utilised for a wider range of disciplinary learning
This review has proposed three areas of thought and practice around the use of IVWs
as ambiguous, insufficiently theorised, or in need of clarification and further critical
consideration and research. These are the pedagogical rationales, goals and processes
of higher education within IVWs, the roles, emergent practices and orientations
required of teaching staff, and the position of the broad range of student meaning-
making practices called forth by IVWs.
It is perhaps unsurprising that these three areas require further thought and
development. Between them, in overlapping ways, they constitute the ‘why, how and
what’ questions which might underpin the growth and develop of these new
environments as educational spaces of practice and becoming. However - as with so
many innovations in education - critical analysis and in-depth research are arising
now as part of a second phase of development, in this case arguably riding in the
slipstream of the first wave of technology-driven experimentation.
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... One of the more relevant for the purposes of the current study is in education. Virtual worlds have a great pedagogical potential and can technologically provide an immersive learning experience [20]. Immersion and presence in virtual environments seem to have positive effects on learning outcomes [21] and there is a growing interest in applying VR in educational settings. ...
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The way that the new generations approach cultural contents changed dramatically. The audiovisual language substituted traditional media. Museums face now an important challenge to survive as cultural referents in this new paradigm: the introduction of new audiovisual languages in their exhibitions and the provision of attractive online content. The work presents a case study of the use of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) in a technological heritage museum, with a double approach: on the one hand the development of AR to enhance the real visit to the museum; and on the other, the provision of VR to ease online visits to the museum for those that do not want to or cannot visit it. The results show that young visitors massively appreciate the use of these technologies. Using AR contents also contributes to the preservation of the original artifacts without damage. Furthermore, multimedia content provides some contextual information, improving the learning experience. Regarding the VR application, it is thought as a complement to the AR experience. It was developed as a virtual reproduction of the museum visit that can be experienced from any location, thus contributing to a higher diffusion of the museum contents.
... (p. 21) Within that new literacies ethos, the learning of new practices and literacies is generally framed as an immersive, experiential process (Savin-Baden et al., 2010), learned through situated practice and participation with peers (Gee, 2004), often in informal learning contexts or affinity spaces. However, this framing of digital spaces as a site for participatory and critical engagement does not take into account the extractive nature of contemporary datafied platforms, or the emergent data risks that immersive online engagement can pose. ...
This chapter complements the introduction to the book “Data Cultures in Higher Education: Emerging Practices and the challenges ahead”. This chapter explores policy-making areas that impact higher education directly or indirectly. These areas are (a) transformation of higher education (from discourses of modernisation to the problem of managerialism, (b) open science and data connected to research practices and (c) the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In our view, the aforementioned areas support the initial theoretical assumption that data practices are based on several perspectives on how data are produced and used; hence, they encompass complexity. Moreover, this complexity sets the basis for different reactions from Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), which shape their situated institutional data cultures. Through the evidence of concrete evolution of policy-making around data in society and in education, our goal is to provide a frame to understand the relevance of the cases and proposals presented in each of the following chapters.
... (p. 21) Within that new literacies ethos, the learning of new practices and literacies is generally framed as an immersive, experiential process (Savin-Baden et al., 2010), learned through situated practice and participation with peers (Gee, 2004), often in informal learning contexts or affinity spaces. However, this framing of digital spaces as a site for participatory and critical engagement does not take into account the extractive nature of contemporary datafied platforms, or the emergent data risks that immersive online engagement can pose. ...
This chapter introduces the book “Data Cultures in Higher Education: Emerging Practices and the Challenges Ahead”. It is based on four sections that frame several chapters’ work and present it. In the first section, we briefly explain the problem of data and datafication in our contemporary society. To offer conceptual lenses, the idea of complexity is applied to the entropic and chaotic way with which datafication appears in several areas of higher education, triggering fragmented responses, ambiguity, and in the worst cases, harm. Hence, we offer the idea of higher education institutions’ data culture as potential apparatus to explore and understand the above-mentioned complexity. Data cultures characterise an institution and its tradition, people, narratives, and symbols around data and datafication. We purport here that awareness about their existence is crucial to engage in transformation to achieve fairness, equity, and even justice, beyond the subtle manipulation embedded in many of the assumptions behind data-intensive practices. Over these bases, we present the twelve central chapters composing this book, highlighting their perspectives and the way they contribute to study, act, and change data cultures. Finally, space is left to the book’s conclusions and the afterword by invited scholars as a point of arrival for the reader. Several threads conjoin in a web that will hopefully inspire future research and practice.
... Common fields of VR learning applications are in industry [29,30], in emergency services [31], in medicine [32,33], in teacher education [34,35], and in school contexts [36,37]. Even though an increasing number of studies dealing with VR in educational contexts have been published in recent years [38,39], learning processes are often not mentioned, nor do models or theories form the basis for VR learning scenarios [4,25,40,41]. Rather, the research is technology-driven and often focuses on case studies, anecdotes, and demonstrations of technical prototypes. It should be noted that for VR, there are hardly any specific models and theories for the instructional design of VR learning applications. ...
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The goal of the current study was to investigate the effects of a virtual reality (VR) simulation of Anne Frank’s hiding place on learning. In a 2 × 2 experiment, 132 middle school students learned about the living conditions of Anne Frank, a girl of Jewish heritage during the Second World War, through desktop VR (DVR) and head-mounted display VR (HMD-VR) (media conditions). Approximately half of each group engaged in an explorative vs. an expository learning approach (method condition). The exposition group received instructions on how to explore the hiding place stepwise, whereas the exploration group experienced it autonomously. Next to the main effects of media and methods, the mediating effects of the learning process variables of presence and flow and the moderating effects of contextual variables (e.g., prior technical knowledge) have been analyzed. The results revealed that the HMD-VR led to significantly improved evaluation, and—even if not statistically significant—perspective-taking in Anne, but less knowledge gain compared to DVR. Further results showed that adding instructions and segmentation within the exposition group led to significantly increased knowledge gain compared to the exploration group. For perspective-taking and evaluation, no differences were detected. A significant interaction between media and methods was not found. No moderating effects by contextual variables but mediating effects were observed: For example, the feeling of presence within VR can fully explain the relationships between media and learning. These results support the view that learning processes are crucial for learning in VR and that studies neglecting these learning processes may be confounded. Hence, the results pointed out that media comparison studies are limited because they do not consider the complex interaction structures of media, instructional methods, learning processes, and contextual variables.
... Physical distance and a lack of face-toface interaction between students and teachers are considered the primary obstacles to effectively engaging students in an online environment. Furthermore, teachers perceive a potential conflict between providing students with expected and necessary guidelines and providing them with the room and flexibility to generate and develop knowledge and skills on their own (Bryan et al., 2018;Savin-Baden et al., 2010). These complexities have increased in recent years as teachers have been pressured to transition from traditional face-to-face classrooms to online classrooms. ...
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Education institutions are under proliferating challenges to deliver successful virtual learning in an increasingly digitized and globalized environment and especially during Covid-19 outbreak. This even become harder in academically challenging circumstance. This might put their identity as a teacher in hard situation. The aim of this research is to analyses English teacher attitudes and perception after having unsuccessful teaching practices from professional identity lens. An interpretative phenomenological analysis by utilizing dialogic interview will be employed to 4 higher education English teacher in underprivileged and newly established university to capture the intended data. After that, the data regarding teacher identity will be displayed and extensively analysed to unfold some individual phenomenon while implementing virtual classroom to teach English. This study found that our participants have evidently grown professionally during the Covid-19 epidemic time frame. Several teachers have developed some strategies to actually engage students in the virtual classroom and gained more awareness of technological issues in learning. In fact, this experience was viewed as enhancing their teacher identity. This study is expected to offer a glimpse of teacher individual situation and some insight on the effort in maintaining personal teachers’ identity during virtual learning process.
... The technological opportunities to support learning have been recommended, designed and implemented with academic integrity, as there are many benefits online mode of learning , having been reported to provide universally accessible support for students (Baughan, 2021). Online WBL delivery, offers the opportunity to apply theory to practice in complex and high-pressure situations, with the ability to design a range of tailored learning opportunities (Savin-Baden et al., 2010). ...
... -development of the educational environment with the use of immersive learning tools [5,6,7,8,9,10,11]; -immersive learning tools in medicine [12,13,14,15,16]; -immersive learning tools in engineering and physics [17,18,19]; -immersive learning tools in arts and humanities [20,21,22]; -pedagogical innovations based on immersive learning [23,24,25] [ [23][24][25] -application of immersive technologies in university subdivisions, e.g. library [26,27]; -immersive technologies for scientific research [28,29]; -fulfillment of the third university mission and social activity to ensure the citizens wellbeing [30,31,32,33,34,35,36]; -education digitalization [37]; -state regulation and management of education quality [38,39]; -ensuring the quality of education in subject areas [40,41]; -quality of education and sustainable development goals [42]. ...
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The article considers the problem of using immersive learning in the educational and scientific activities of the university. Literature survey revealed that there is a need for an integrated approach for introduction of immersive learning at the university. It involves the creation of a specialized laboratory of virtual and augmented reality with appropriate technical equipment, introduction of immersive learning methodology in university educational programs, development of software and hardware solutions for immersive learning, and research on the immersive learning effectiveness. We present the description of a specialized university department acting as a developer of software products for immersive learning. We show original developments in the field of immersive education for exact sciences and arts and humanities students. The article describes products that are designed to fulfill the third university mission: to ensure the citizens well-being. We propose "immersive institute" model which can be implemented both at the level of the university in general and at the level of its educational and scientific departments.
... Consequently, some of these VR learning applications contribute little to competence acquisition. Neither are learning processes often mentioned nor do models or theories form the basis for VR learning scenarios [6,[18][19][20]. Rather, research is technology-driven and often focuses on anecdotes, case studies, and demonstrations of technical prototypes. ...
Full-text available
Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology with a variety of potential benefits for vocational training. Therefore, this paper presents a VR training based on the highly validated 4C/ID model to train vocational competencies in the field of vehicle painting. The following 4C/ID components were designed using the associated 10 step approach: learning tasks, supportive information, procedural information, and part-task practice. The paper describes the instructional design process including an elaborated blueprint for a VR training application for aspiring vehicle painters. We explain the model’s principles and features and their suitability for designing a VR vocational training that fosters integrated competence acquisition. Following the methodology of design-based research, several research methods (e.g., a target group analysis) and the ongoing development of prototypes enabled agile process structures. Results indicate that the 4C/ID model and the 10 step approach promote the instructional design process using VR in vocational training. Implementation and methodological issues that arose during the design process (e.g., limited time within VR) are adequately discussed in the article
In a world of pervasive digital surveillance, data mining, and skyrocketing online participation due to COVID-19, does higher education have a responsibility to approach digital datafication with policies and practices that center equity? This chapter outlines two projects that aim to foster data literacies among educators, and to understand the data practices and perspectives that they bring to their roles as knowledge workers in systems that structure learning and knowledge. The chapter overviews the development of each project and explores the reality that higher education has not yet grappled with the complexity that datafications pose. Ultimately, it posits that higher education needs ethics-focused conversations about the risks and implications of datafied platforms, and faculty development initiatives that foster data literacies among educators and learners.
This paper is based on work carried out by the two authors during the first six months of 2021 – a period by which the practices of online learning and teaching had become familiarized and - to some extent - even standardized in our institution, as in most others. We are interested first and foremost in the online teaching space as a social space: as an environment designed to facilitate the interactions that adhibit learning and teaching. How suitable are the environments that we have created to achieving such outcomes? Is it reasonable - for example - to describe the environments in which we learn and teach online as ‘spaces’, using the same word (and in virtually the same sense) that we use to describe the familiar physical teaching spaces of bricks-and-mortar locations? Our primary research involved bringing learners, teachers and digital specialists together into online learning spaces, and then inviting all those present to represent their experiences of the virtual space, using simple analogue tools: coloured pens and paper. The results of these workshops form the basis for this paper. In our conclusion, we attempt to formulate some explanations for the emotionally-inflected nature of these representations of digital learning spaces. Using concepts and approaches from psycho-geography (Augé), social-actor theory (Emirbeyer and Mische) and pedagogic theory (Gourlay, Wenger-Trayner), we begin to outline what might need to happen to the online learning environment as a social space for its full potential and promise to be realised.
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There is a growing use of immersive virtual environments for educational purposes. However, much of this activity is not yet documented in the public domain, or is descriptive rather than analytical. This paper presents a case study in which university students were tasked with building an interactive learning experience using Second Life as a platform. Both problem-based learning and constructionism acted as framing pedagogies for the task, with students working in teams to design and build a learning experience which could potentially meet the needs of a real client in innovative ways which might not be possible in real life. A process account of the experience is provided, which examines how the pedagogies and contexts (real and virtual) influence and enhance each other. The use of a virtual environment, combined with problem-based learning and constructionism, subtly changed the nature of the instructor–student relationship, allowed students to explore ‘problematic problems' in a motivating and relevant manner, provided students with greater ownership over their work, and allowed problems to be set which were flexible, but at the same time allowed for ease of assessment.
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Learning in immersive virtual worlds (simulations and virtual worlds such as Second Life) could become a central learning approach in many curricula, but the socio-political impact of virtual world learning on higher education remains under-researched. Much of the recent research into learning in immersive virtual worlds centres around games and gaming and is largely underpinned by cognitive learning theories that focus on linearity, problem-solving and the importance of attaining the ‘right answer' or game plan. Most research to date has been undertaken into students' experiences of virtual learning environments, discussion forums and perspectives about what and how online learning has been implemented. This article reviews the literature relating to learning in immersive virtual worlds, and suggests that there needs to be a reconsideration of what ‘learning' means in such spaces.
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With the increased interest in using Immersive Virtual Worlds (IVWs) such as Second Life to augment and amplify teaching or to develop communities of practice, the author engaged graduate students, all current K-12 teachers, in a qualitative study to examine their attitudes about communicating for the first time in a virtual setting represented by an interactive avatar. This study sought to determine if students were able to discern degrees of expertise in other avatars by providing encounters with guests who had a significant amount of experience navigating in a virtual world. The study examined Second Life as a synchronous discussion tool for a higher education setting and finds it lacking in some respects, but is able to make recommendations about training instructors to exhibit behaviours that may inspire confidence while leading a class in such a setting.
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The paper reports the theoretical underpinnings for the pedagogical role and rationale for adopting 3D virtual worlds for socialisation and knowledge creation in distance education. Socialisation or ‘knowing one another' in remote distributed environments can be achieved through synchronous technologies such as instant messaging, audio and video-conferencing. However, a 3D virtual world can provide an immersive experience where there is a visual presence and virtual proximity of the group members in terms of their 3D selves (avatars). We discuss the affordances of a 3D virtual world and its role in providing a platform for pedagogical design that engenders socialisation, synchronous communication and collaboration. We propose the use of a knowledge construction model as a framework for guiding the design of collaborative activities in a 3D virtual world for blended learning environments. We believe that this framework will also be useful for integrating 2D environments such as blogs, wikis and forums with a 3D learning environment. We consider the implications of this in the context of blended learning in distance education. This paper would be of interest to course designers, researchers, teachers, staff developers and policy-makers who are involved in integrating 3D virtual worlds within the curriculum of their programmes and institutions.
While digital virtual worlds have been used in education for a number of years, advances in the capabilities and spread of technology have fed a recent boom in interest in massively multi-user 3D virtual worlds for entertainment, and this in turn has led to a surge of interest in their educational applications. In this paper we briefly review the use of virtual worlds for education, from informal learning to formal instruction, and consider what is required to turn a virtual world from a Multi-User Virtual Environment into a fully fledged 3D Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). In this we focus on the development of Sloodle – a system which integrates the popular 3D virtual world of Second Life with the open-source VLE Moodle. Our intent is not simply to provide additional learning support features for Second Life, but to study more generally the ways in which integrated virtual environments can benefit teaching and learning, and this is the focus of our closing discussion.
The university is not only faced with a world of supercomplexity but it has itself contributed to this situation. This is a world in which our very frames of understanding, action and self-identity are all continually challenged. What is the place and role of the university in such a world? It is that of living by the uncertainty principle: it has to generate uncertainty, to help us live with uncertainty and even to revel in our uncertainty.