The purpose of this dissertation is to examine teaching and learning in virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL). This research is designed to address the following questions: What are the pedagogical practices in virtual worlds? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these practices? How do these practices change at different course levels? How do the pedagogical practices affect the student-instructor interactions that take place in SL? Further, how do the technological affordances, or the actions individuals can perform in SL, affect the student-instructor interactions that take place in that virtual world?
This research employed ethnographic and discourse analysis methods to investigate the pedagogical practices in the virtual world SL. Also of interest were the technological affordances and the ways in which they influence student-instructor interactions in SL. This research analyzed synchronous text chat and observational data collected from SL continuing education courses at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. To support or refute these findings, unstructured interviews were conducted with SL course instructors and students.
Virtual worlds may support student-centered learning, yet this study found that the SL teaching and learning did not differ dramatically from the teacher-centered, physical world classroom. In sessions involving active learning tasks, however, the students’ level of participation and use of cognitive messages increased. Compared to their instructors, the students participating in these activities also contributed longer words to the discussion. Thus, there is evidence that learning did occur in SL, particularly when the instructors integrated student-centered practices into their teacher-centered course structure.
In general, the SL instructors relied heavily upon teacher-centered methods. However, the results of this study suggest that the use of student-centered approaches in virtual world – ones that draw from constructivist epistemologies – have the potential to create a more effective learning situation for the students. Nonetheless, making the shift away from behaviorist ideals that remain prevalent in today’s physical classroom is difficult, even when the instructors embrace the technology and its affordances.
|Advisor:||Herring, Susan C.|
|Commitee:||Bonk, Curt, Hara, Noriko, Rosenbaum, Howard|
|School Location:||United States -- Indiana|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Communication, Educational technology, Information science|
|Keywords:||Continuing education, Information science, Information technology, Multimedia communications, Pedagogy, Technology education|
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