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GeoForge: investigating integrated virtual reality and personalized websites for collaboration in middle school science

Corinne Brenner (Killer Snails, Brooklyn, New York, USA)
Kayla DesPortes (Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, New York, New York, USA)
Jessica Ochoa Hendrix (Killer Snails, Brooklyn, New York, USA)
Mandë Holford (Hunter College, New York, New York, USA; American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York, USA and PhD Programs in Biochemistry, Biology and Chemistry CUNY Graduate Center, New York, New York, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 15 July 2021

Issue publication date: 9 August 2021




This paper aims to describe the design and user testing of GeoForge, a multiple-player digital learning experience for middle school that leverages virtual reality (VR) and individualized websites for learning concepts in planetary science. This paper investigates how specific instructional design choices and features of the technology fostered collaborative behaviors.


GeoForge was implemented in 3 middle school classrooms with a total of 220 students. Learners used GeoForge in class in groups of 3–4 to learn about planetary science. A mixed-methods approach examined collaboration using classroom observations, teacher interviews, student surveys and student artifacts. Using Jeong and Hmelo-Silver’s (2016) seven affordances of technology for collaborative learning, this paper identifies ways in which features of GeoForge supported collaborative behaviors.


Instructional design which combined VR and the digital science journal (DSJ) helped foster collaboration. Some collaborative behaviors were especially notable in classrooms that did not regularly practice these skills. Segmenting tasks in the DSJ, clarifying instructions to articulate ideas, showing other group members’ responses onscreen and enabling multiuser VR environments contributed to collaborative behaviors and a satisfying learning experience as observed and documented through multiple methods.


GeoForge successfully integrated VR and personalized websites in a classroom planetary science lesson, an approach which balanced instructional design and logistical challenges while creating opportunities for collaboration.



Development and user research of this product was supported by the Institute for Educational Sciences under Contract Award 91990019C0025.


Brenner, C., DesPortes, K., Ochoa Hendrix, J. and Holford, M. (2021), "GeoForge: investigating integrated virtual reality and personalized websites for collaboration in middle school science", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 122 No. 7/8, pp. 546-564.



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