Course notes:

Virtual worlds and simulations are an important part of game-based learning. There are a number of arguments which can be made for why these environments work, however the debate around this is far from resolved and likely to continue. The main arguments from the literature are:

  • Games can be used as a learning tool and a more natural way to learn than traditional classrooms – Making learning fun (Malone & Lepper, 1987)
  • Context and Emotional Involvement – Knowledge is more useful in context and virtual worlds create contexts similar to the those where the content will be applied (Gee, 2003)
  • Participation allows the development, practice and refinement of skills, knowledge and understanding (Steinkuehler, Squire, & Barab, 2012)

Inside education, virtual worlds have been used as as a way of teaching and learning including:

  • Problem Based Learning
  • Enquiry Based Learning
  • Game Based Learning
  • Role Playing
  • Virtual Quests
  • Collaborative Simulations (learn by simulation)
  • Collaborative Construction (building activities)
  • Design Courses (Game, Fashion, Architectural)
  • Language Teaching and Learning
  • Virtual Laboratories
  • Virtual Field Works
  • Attending lectures or classes
  1. Immersive learning
  2. World of Warcraft in School: Student Perspectives
  3. EPIC Teaching Academy – Introduction
Reflect: These are three videos, taken over a 5 year period which advocate, illustrate and attempt to embody the potential of virtual worlds (and games) for learning. What changes do you think have occurred in the last five years, how relevant are these videos to your context today?

While there have been many changes over this period of time, I think that each of the videos still have relevance within today’s educational context. Virtual worlds and games still embody the elements of communication, teamwork, leadership, literacies, community, engagement and fun.  They provide for choice, quests, leveling up and increasing challenges as the gamer/student progresses through the game.  They allow for experiential learning as evidenced in all of the videos, where the players are actively engaged.