Online education has grown into a part of the educational market answering the demand for learning at the learner's choice of time and place. Inquiry skills such as observing, questioning, collecting data, and devising fair experiments are an essential element of 21st-century online science coursework. Virtual immersive worlds such as Second Life are being used as new frontiers in science education. There have been few studies looking specifically at science education in virtual worlds that foster inquiry skills. This quantitative quasi-experimental nonrandomized control group pretest and posttest study explored what affect a virtual world experience had on inquiry skills as measured by the TIPS (Test of Integrated Process Skills) and TIPS II (Integrated Process Skills Test II) instruments. Participants between the ages of 18 and 65 were recruited from educator mailing lists and Second Life discussion boards and then sorted into the experimental group, which received instructions to utilize several displays in Mendelian genetics at the Genome Island location within Second Life, or the control group, which received text-based PDF documents of the same genetics course content. All participants, in the form of avatars, were experienced Second Life residents to reduce any novelty effect. This study found a greater increase in inquiry skills in the experimental group interacting using a virtual world to learn science content (0.90 points) than a control group that is presented only with online text-based content (0.87 points). Using a mixed between-within ANOVA (analysis of variance), with an alpha level of 0.05, there was no significant interaction between the control or experimental groups and inquiry skills, F (1, 58) = .783, p = .380, partial eta squared = .013, at the specified .05 alpha level suggesting no significant difference as a result of the virtual world exercise. However, there is not enough evidence to state that there was no effect because there was a greater increase in scores for the group that experienced a virtual world exercise. This study adds to the increasing body of knowledge about virtual worlds and inquiry skills, particularly with adult learners.
|Commitee:||Irlbeck, Sonja, Parks, Eric|
|School Location:||United States -- Minnesota|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Adult education, Educational technology, Science education|
|Keywords:||Inquiry skills, Inquiry-based science, Science, Virtual world|
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