Serious virtual worlds and immersive learning

by | Mar 23, 2009 | Articles

In Driving Business Benefits (the Towards Maturity research published earlier this year) we saw that just under 20% of the research participants were using some form of games or complex simulations in their e-learning offering and just under 10% used virtual worlds.

Significant growth was also predicted in these areas (in both cases usage was expected to double). And for good reasons.  We found that those who agreed that they used highly interactive methods, such as games, in their e-learning solutions were also more likely to report increased business benefits from their investments.

Games and simulations are more likely to be found in the more mature users of learning technologies. The research highlighted that established users are much more likely to focus on interactivity than those who are sporadic users. The established are 4 times as likely to consistently use video, audio, images and animation as well as text and 15 times as likely to use highly interactive methods such as games in their solutions.

So games, virtual worlds and complex simulations can really add value but where can organisations go to get started?

Research from JISC

Prepared for the JISC e-Learning Programme by Professor Sara de Freitas at the Serious Games Institute, JISC have published 2 reports that look at this overall issue in some depth.

For employers they provide an in-depth understanding of the overall subject that help in formulating strategy and engaging with the provider community:

Report 1 – Learning in Immersive worlds: A review of game-based learning

This report has been produced to inform practitioners who are considering using games and simulations in their practice. Towards this end, the work includes a review of the literature and a series of case studies from practice to illustrate the range of uses of games and to synthesise key issues and themes arising from learning in immersive worlds.

There are many valuable insights in the report from which Sara draws these key conclusions:

  • Games need to be embedded into practice to ensure effective learning.
  • More research is needed to provide empirical evidence for how game-based learning can be used most effectively.
  • More effective supporting materials are needed to support practitioners wishing to use game-based learning approaches.
  • New developments including the serious games movement are informing the development of games for learning.
  • Great potential and need for trainers and practitioners to become involved with games development for learning.
  • Need for more opportunities for staff development to support those wishing to adopt game-based learning.
  • Potential for learners to become more empowered with game-based learning.

Click here for details

Report 2 – Serious Virtual Worlds: A scoping study

This report provides a scoping study of the use of serious virtual worlds to support learning and training, including a review of the field and case study examples. It also provides valuable resources such as a typology and a list of virtual worlds.The report draws the following conclusions:

  • The field is large in scale although there’s a relatively small number that have relevance for learning and education.
  • Social worlds, training worlds and corporate worlds have the most relevance for education and training however the use of multiplayer role play games may have real educational potential in the longer run.
  • We are at the beginning of real applications for mirror worlds in the area of education and research.
  • The case studies show a diversity of ways of using virtual worlds, including mentoring, constructing learning activities, exploratory trails and quests, role plays and rehearsals of skills, but the potential uses of serious virtual worlds extend beyond these.
  • Virtual worlds are beginning to offer a new infrastructure for supporting a range of cross-disciplinary collaborative research and learning opportunities.
  • Learning communities supported in virtual worlds may have implications for pedagogic models employed, the contexts of learning, the different ways that learning contexts are represented and change learning profiles.
  • While the use of immersive world applications is clearly maturing in areas such as business and health training, there are still significant challenges that remain such as a need for common standards and the validation of assessment and evaluation techniques.
  • A debate between developers, educators and designers is needed to ensure that these challenges are met positively, and to ensure quality in all areas of academic and educational practice.

Click here for details

Interested in more background?

It’s also worth revisiting:

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