Design, Development, and Usability of a Virtual Environment on Moral, Social, and Emotional Leaning

Design, Development, and Usability of a Virtual Environment on Moral, Social, and Emotional Leaning

Samiullah Paracha, Lynne Hall, Kathy Clawson, Nicole Mitsche
DOI: 10.4018/IJVPLE.2020070104
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Virtual environments have the potential to be an important teaching tool for emotionally sensitive issues capable of producing a sense of presence, perspective-taking and introspection in users in a risk-free, rapid feedback experience. In designing such experiences, it is essential that users are regularly engaged in a collaborative design process. However, engaging in design, development, and evaluation can in itself provide a learning experience. Here, the authors present an approach to engaging children in the design, development and evaluation of a virtual learning environment, specifically a serious game, focused on inculcating empathy, ethical reasoning, and reflection for coping with bullying. It was demonstrated that children's involvement not only contributed to an improved virtual environment, but significantly engaging in the design process provided children with a novel and effective learning opportunity.
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Child suicides in Japan, due to school bullying, are the highest they have been in more than three decades (BBC News, 2018). Kersten (2012) calls bullying victimization a “collapse of moral code and a symptom of the passing of everyday values” such as empathy, kindness, compassion and tolerance. Although Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are seen as an effective vehicle to transfer moral value orientations and positive emotions (Paracha & Yoshie, 2013; Hodhod et al., 2011; Zagal, 2009), they have never been considered pedagogically imperative by the Japanese school system. This is despite a growing wider focus on developing active and dynamic learning environments which incorporate digital technology and encourage a participative relationship between students and practitioners (Borges et al., 2014). In Japan, moral, social and emotional learning approaches are suppressed in the curriculum rather than given the precedence they deserve. Schools are focused more on improving academic skills of children (Paracha & Yoshie, 2013) than offering them with opportunities to explore personal, social and emotional issues, and related coping strategies in a virtual environment without involving any real-world risks (Chaffe, 2016; Abt, 1970).

Social and emotional skills are critical to be a successful student, citizen, and worker (Greenberg et al., 2003). This type of learning involves acquiring knowledge and skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (Casel, 2013). For virtual learning, Buck (2013) states that integration of game theory into non-game environments can create positive emotional responses such as joy, relief, curiosity, and creativity. This in turn may facilitate deeper understanding and management of emotion. Similarly, Granic et al. (2014) believe that serious games can provide immersive and compelling social, cognitive, and emotional experiences that can be transferable to real-world contexts, whilst operating as sites to apply problem-solving skills and enhance creativity. Granic et al. (2014) and Greitemeyer (2013) found that intergroup collaboration in multiplayer serious games reduces prejudice and increases empathy towards the outgroups. In this respect, learning may be achieved through the development of relatedness, a key element of self-determinism (Seaborn, 2015). Cuhadar & Kampf (2014) suggest perspective-taking in serious games is a prerequisite for developing empathy— one of the most important aspects of anti-bullying education.

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