The Use of Network-Based Virtual Worlds in Second Language Education: A Research Review

The Use of Network-Based Virtual Worlds in Second Language Education: A Research Review

Mark Peterson (Kyoto University, Japan), Qiao Wang (Kyoto University, Japan) and Maryam Sadat Mirzaei (RIKEN, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7286-2.ch001


This chapter reviews 28 learner-based studies on the use of network-based social virtual worlds in second language learning published during the period 2007-2017. The purpose of this review is to establish how these environments have been implemented and to identify the target languages, methods used, research areas, and important findings. Analysis demonstrates that research is characterized by a preponderance of small-scale studies conducted in higher education settings. The target languages most frequently investigated were English, Spanish, and Chinese. In terms of the methodologies adopted, analysis reveals the majority of studies were qualitative in nature. It was found that the investigation of learner target language production, interaction, and affective factors represent the primary focus of research. Although positive findings relating to the above areas have been reported, the analysis draws attention to gaps in the current research base. The researchers provide suggestions for future research.
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As one of the most popular of the computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments that have emerged with the rapid development of computing technologies in recent decades, VWs are increasingly being utilized in language education (Deutschmann & Panichi, 2013). This phenomenon is due, in part, to the dramatic expansion in worldwide Internet usage and the emergence of accessible, low-cost and robust VWs. Researchers further note that although VWs share a number of technologies in common with other CMC environments they combine a number of features that, when taken together, offer language learners access to virtual reality-based communication environments with unique potential for language learning (Peterson, 2011; Sadler, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Machinima: Animations created within a 3D virtual world.

Avatar: An online graphical representation of a virtual world user.

Teleport: The ability of an individual user controlled avatar to rapidly change location within a virtual world.

Telepresence: The feeling of being present in an online environment.

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