Reflections on Immersive Virtual Learning
Bartle (2004) demonstrated that players often can pose unreasonable demands upon the design of virtual worlds, or sometimes design changes can create unintended and undesirable consequences among the players. In educational virtual worlds, formative evaluation should occur regularly and frequently to assess the learning potential of the current system state.
One of the foremost benefits of virtual worlds is its ability to reach higher levels of immersion more readily than other learning platforms. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) introduced the concept of flow as a state of absolute engagement or absorption in an activity, resulting in an optimal learning experience, which has been shown to have a positive impact on learning. There can be such a thing as too much immersion right away, however, and in some cases scaffolding may need to occur to ensure different types of participants properly assimilate the immersive experience.
One of the chief mistakes many teachers make when starting to use virtual worlds is simply replicating the classroom environment in the online space. There is little sense to creating virtual desks in a virtual room with a virtual whiteboard if it already exists in the real world. The power of the virtual world is that it provides a collaborative space where constructivist learning activities can take place, in ways that are difficult or simply not possible otherwise. For learners to achieve the flow state, they must be actively engaged.
In some techno-cultural milieus it may be inappropriate to expect learners to participate in different types of immersive environments. The digital divide can play a significant role in who has necessary access to the types of technology-based learning employed. Pedagogically, the paradigm shift that comes from teaching in a classroom to teacher in an constructed immersive environment requires both training and experience before effective instruction and learning may occur. This is one of the greatest challenges, ensuring that the virtual environments are used optimally, but it is an important one as virtual environments are continuing to become an important part of children’s social and online lives (Beals & Bers, 2009).
Bartle, R. A. (2004). Virtual worldliness: What the imaginary asks of the real. New York Law School Law Review, 49(1), 19-44.
Beals, L., & Bers, M. U. (2009). A developmental lens for designing virtual worlds for children and youth. International Journal of Learning, 1(1), 51-65.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond boredom and anxiety: The experience of play in work and games. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.