Since the prevalence of virtual worlds in society has grown exponentially in recent years and virtual worlds have demonstrated an incredible power to engage participants in ways in which traditional education has not, virtual worlds provide us an excellent opportunity to create engaging, collaborative, and academically challenging learning situations. Also, given the new media literacy of many of younger students, we in higher education are in many ways meeting them where they already are …or should be. By integrating virtual worlds into instruction, the Virtual Education Research Group (VERG) at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts provides students with these collaborative experiences. Through a sustained community of practice and experimentation with a variety of virtual world platforms including ActiveWorlds, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, City of Heroes Architect, Forbidden City, and Second Life, some general principles and specific learning activities emerge for instructors integrating virtual worlds into the classroom. The basic concepts of connecting with technical and administrative support, choosing a world with thematic connections to your subject, creating scheduled opportunities to play and learn together, and committing to providing a strong online presence have been expanded upon to create a flexible model that can be applied across disciplines. Through the work of VERG at Middlesex Community College, virtual worlds are now used in a variety of instructional disciplines, ranging from humanities to psychology to business. Several case studies illustrating unique and effective practices are provided.
Cady, D., Olson, M., Shea, P. and Grenier, J.M. (2011), "A Practical Model and Assignments for Using Virtual Worlds in Higher Education", Hinrichs, R. and Wankel, C. (Ed.) Transforming Virtual World Learning (Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 87-112. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2044-9968(2011)0000004009
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