Virtual Learning: Videogames and Virtual Reality in Education

Virtual Learning: Videogames and Virtual Reality in Education

Martha Burkle (Assiniboine College, Canada) and Michael Magee (Penson Consulting Group, Canada)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1692-7.ch016
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Abstract

This chapter explores the seamless learning opportunities that video games and virtual reality offer for learners and instructors. Interacting with content, with each other, and with learning processes in virtual environments, learning becomes a process combined with discovery and fun. The authors analyze emerging trends and learning understandings (epistemologies) built by video game users and learners represented in the forms of avatars. Digital environments are in fact transforming the way learners and instructors (faculty) interact with each other in and across contexts. Using data from two parallel research projects, the chapter examines students' self identity construction, problem solving, and learning in virtual environments. The authors suggest that learning epistemologies that take place in virtual reality should be brought back to the classroom or to the online environment (by the instructional designer or the game developer) and impact the way learning takes place in this ‘real'/physical environments.
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Background

More than 300 million people play social games every month (Wexler, 2011). Not surprisingly the persuasive nature of video games has attracted educational researchers and teachers interested in the potential of the new medium in teaching and learning. For more than decade now, higher education & K-12 institutions have been exploring the use of video games and other VR spaces to support teaching and learning. Virtual environments allow for interaction, exploration and creation, providing a place where learners can build exact replicas of famous buildings (for an architecture course), or interact with world known personalities (for a science program), or buy a time share condominium to spend a holiday (while they learn the details of a financial transaction). Furthermore, a number of universities around the globe have started, and continue to do so, to build virtual scenarios where students could meet for a coffee, or to exchange and academic idea, or to find a problem for a solution, or to consult with their instructor.

In a recent survey of American K-8 classrooms 74% of teachers reported using digital games for teaching. 80% of those teachers said their students play at least monthly while 55% said they played weekly. This gameplay time was not for entertainment purposes as teachers were using games to address curriculum needs at a local (43%) and state/ national (41%) curriculum standards. The games are also being used to assess students on supplemental (33%) and core knowledge (29%) (Takeuchi & Vaala, 2014).

Higher education institutions are also using virtual worlds to connect with young learners, in an attempt to engage the so called ‘Net Generation’ – and their use of gaming and computer generated virtual worlds for entertainment - into their programs and course offerings. Examples of these are the beautiful student centered developed in Second Life by Ohio University, and the Campus welcome model built in SL by Athabasca University (Burkle, 2010).

The research into video games and virtual environments has been fueled by an increasing number of claims about the value of video games and digital environments. Those who see the beneficial results of video games have a long list of positive effects. These include a host of cognitive skills such as an increased ability to problem solve, filter misleading perceptual information, tolerate failure, exhibit greater creativity in problem solving, and exhibit higher levels of competitiveness and greater optimism (Bialystok, 2006; Aldrich, 2005; Unsworth et.al., 2015).

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