Pedagogical Potential of Virtual Worlds: Challenges and Opportunities

Pedagogical Potential of Virtual Worlds: Challenges and Opportunities

Amir Manzoor
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2426-7.ch008
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Every year, the number of people using virtual worlds is increasing. Virtual worlds and their avatars is a unique 3D experience for users. It is expected that virtual worlds will soon become the primary platform for all online activities. Looking at the increasing usage of virtual worlds, educators have started to use virtual worlds in their classes. Virtual worlds have the potential to provide a plethora of opportunities for meaningful learning. The objective of this chapter was to explore the potential applications of virtual worlds to enhance teaching pedagogies. This chapter explored many strengths and weaknesses of virtual worlds in academic settings. Some important issues were highlighted and specific recommendations were provided to make virtual worlds a more powerful and effective environment for student learning.
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Current Landscape Of Use Of Virtual Worlds In Education

Galarneau and Zibit (2007) claims that MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games) can help develop 21st century skills in players as a by-product of game playing. Everquest is a MMORPG in which group formation is essential to succeed in game. As such, players of this group do teamwork and collaborate with other groups to maximize chances of success. Virtual worlds also support the development of social skills. Interaction between users is essential so that they get the answer needed to create and share knowledge. Beavis (2004) claims that in this process of knowledge discovery some players become experts and establish themselves as authority. Doing so, they not only contribute to the virtual world environment, but also gain invaluable social knowledge that can help in their emotional development. Through game playing and information sharing, players learn to distinguish between what is valid and what is not. This ability is a key 21st century skill. Players also learn how to self-organize into groups, negotiate, and mediate conflicts (Beck & Wade, 2006; Galarneau & Zibit, 2007).

Virtua world users are committed to a common endeavor. Their affiliation is not with a particular race, class, ethnicity, or gender (Gee, 2007). Virtual worlds provide their users unique ways to establish their presence and identity. For example, a teenager can lead team of professional football players in a virtual world game. This could not be possible in real world. People can use virtual worlds to discover their hidden talent such as leadership skills. One drawback of their use in learning is that they are not specifically designed for some particular learning objectives. As such, teachers looking forward to use them in teaching would need to customize an existing virtual world to suit their pedagogical purposes.

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