Using virtual worlds efficiently in a post-graduate business course: Designing an exploratory study

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Conference Proceeding
ASCILITE 2010 - The Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, 2010, pp. 444 - 449
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There is much interesting work being done around virtual worlds in education (Bulmer, 2008; Dede, 2007; NMC, 2007; Schutt & Martino, 2008) particularly in areas that lend themselves to immersion and scenarios or role-plays, but how can the time and effort required to become familiar with a virtual world be minimised whilst at the same time creating an engaging task for students? This paper describes one such example using Second Life in a postgraduate business course. It outlines the first phase of a mixed methods research study (Cresswell & Piano Clarke, 2007), in which insights are sought from a lecturer and student perspective. An Exploratory Design: Instrument Development Model is used to inform research questions around the factors that influence the use of virtual worlds in learning and teaching. Preliminary findings show that initial support and orientation to virtual worlds contribute to the success of their use in learning and teaching, and that our -net-gen' students are not as technology savvy as we imagine. The second phase of the study has brought to light a conceptualisation of virtual worlds as a gaming environment which may indicate one reason not yet highlighted in the literature, for low uptake of virtual worlds by both students and lecturers (McNeil & Diao, 2010). Continuing investigations will use a Triangulation Design: Convergence Model to collect qualitative and quantitative data, surveying students on their perceptions of virtual worlds in order to corroborate the findings in the literature. © 2010 Elaine Huber & Yvette Blount.
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