Engaging Classes in a Virtual World

Engaging Classes in a Virtual World

Sue Gregory (University of New England, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3673-6.ch009
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Virtual worlds, such as Second Life, are multi-user, interactive computer-simulated environments created for users to inhabit and interact via avatars, which are graphical representations of a person that can be personalised and used in the virtual world. In this research, 239 off-campus (distance) education students chose to attend weekly sessions in Second Life from 2008 to 2011. These sessions catered for a diverse group of students. It is internationally claimed that virtual worlds are engaging for distance education students. Engagement is the combination of student’s feelings, observable actions or performance, perceptions, and beliefs. This mixed-methods research sought to investigate whether virtual worlds were engaging for adult student learners. Recorded in-world (in the virtual world) conversations and the completion of a survey by university students provide data from which the findings are made. In-world discussion found that the virtual world, in this case Second Life, is an engaging environment in which to learn. These findings indicate the need for further research in using a virtual world as an educational resource.
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Adult Learning Theories

Contemporary Adult Learning

Theories surrounding the way in which adults learn is relatively new and have only bandied around since the time of Ivan Illich, in the mid 1950’s. Adults predominantly learn by symbolic interactionism which is one’s ability to manipulate symbols (Finger & Asun, 2001). There is no objective reality when it comes to human interaction. The meanings things have result from social interaction. Three learning theories, transformative, constructivist and connectivism, with andragogy as an approach to teaching, provide context to how adults learn in a virtual world.

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