Second Life and World of Warcraft: Harnessing Presence Learning

Second Life and World of Warcraft: Harnessing Presence Learning

Chaka Chaka (Walter Sisulu University, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch012
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Abstract

This chapter explores the potential both Second Life (SL) and World of Warcraft (WoW) as instances of a virtual world (VW) and a massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG), respectively, have for leveraging presence learning. The latter encapsulates, in this chapter, presence pedagogy, tele-presence, co-presence, social presence, and cognitive presence as mediated by both SL and WoW. In this context, this chapter contends that both SL and WoW help harness presence learning. Against this background, the chapter first provides a brief overview of SL, WoW, and presence learning. Second, it presents and discusses seven case studies demonstrating how both SL and WoW help harness presence learning. Third and last, the chapter outlines future trends for presence learning in respect of both SL and WoW.
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Introduction

As instances of a virtual world (VW) and a massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) respectively, both Second Life (SL) and World of Warcraft (WoW) have, within a relatively short time span, been studied from different perspectives. Correspondingly, the many and varied affordances they respectively offer, have also been a subject of much research recently. That is, the applications of these two forms of social presence technologies have, in various ways, been investigated in: the business domain (Ellis, Luther, Bessière & Kellogg, 2008; International Business Machines [IBM], 2007; Mennecke, Hassall & Triplett, 2008); the government sector (Smith, 2009; Wyld, 2008); and the higher education sector (Helmer & Light, 2007; Palomäki, 2009; Thomas & Brown, 2009). In this regard, some of the educational affordances offered by both SL and WoW that have been examined in varying degrees include the following:

  • educational islands, and in-world or in-game learning (islands meant for education in SL, and learning taking place within SL and WoW respectively)

  • situated, experiential, and simulated learning (customized learning, learning tapping into experience, and learning based on simulation)

  • problem- and project-based learning (learning driven by designated problems and projects)

  • observational and virtual action learning (learning involving observation and action learning taking place online)

  • role-playing and avatar-assisted learning (learning involving role-playing and learning taking place through avatars) (see Dickenson, Pedler & Burgoyne, 2007; IBM, 2007; Mennecke et al., 2008; Papp, 2010; Salt, Atkins & Blackall, 2008; Steinkuehler, 2007; Thomas & Brown, 2009).

In particular, these two social presence technologies have been applied and harnessed in fields such as business management/administration, software engineering, physics, medicine, forensic science, literature, and language learning (see Salt et al., 2008). Thus, in this context, it can be argued that these two forms of technologies lend themselves well to being employed in any disciplinary area and in almost any social sphere. And the educational affordances they offer are virtually boundless. It is against this backdrop that this chapter sets out to investigate the way that both SL and WoW help harness presence learning. The latter encompasses, inter alia, presence pedagogy, tele-presence, co-presence, social presence, and cognitive presence as mediated by SL and WoW. Based on this, the chapter consists of the following main sections: Second Life, World of Warcraft, and presence learning: an overview; SL and WoW: harnessing presence learning; and future trends.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Metaverse: This is a VW (such as SL) that is essentially socially inclined as opposed to being game oriented

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): This Vygotskyan approach views learning as a social practice facilitated and scaffolded by the learner’s teachers and other peer learners.

Avatar: This term derives from Sanskrit avatãra , which means descent or incarnation. Within the SL environment, the term avatar is used to refer to the graphical representation of an in-world resident.

Realm: A realm is a game world existing only for a few thousands players within it. Each realm is a complete version of the game world, but each realm has its own players belonging to that particular realm. Players can interact with one another within a realm but cannot interact with players in other realms.

Guilds: Guilds offer many benefits including free items, opportunities for groups and access to extra skills and tools. Players in good guilds can explore more of the game and such groups are taken very seriously by their members.

Virtual action learning: This refers to a form of action learning occurring in a virtual environment - rather than face-to-face - via a range of enabling, interactive and collaborative social technologies such as SL and WoW.

MOOSE (MOdelling Of Secondlife Environment): This is a JISC-funded project focusing on modelling the pedagogical aspects of student learning in groups in SL. SL activities (SL-tivities) are designed, developed and piloted in order to enable groups of students - represented as avatars - to achieve socialization and engagement (presence) for productive information exchange and knowledge construction.

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