Increasing Student Engagement and Retention Using Immersive Interfaces: Virtual Worlds, Gaming, and Simulation: Volume 6 Part C


Table of contents

(20 chapters)

The chapters in this book focus on three main areas of innovation in teaching and learning in higher education today: virtual worlds, gaming, and simulation. Advancements in both digital technologies and learning theories are transforming the way we teach and learn and those advancements are refining our views of what it means to learn in the contemporary post-industrial age. Both individually and collectively, immersive technologies have become more popular as educational tools across a range of disciplines as a means for educators to engage students more deeply in the learning process. Biggs (2003) advocates deep learning – learning that entails active and devoted engagement with rigorous, high-quality learning activities that is also enjoyable and interesting for the learner.

This chapter aims to advance in the analysis of the learner engagement and performance in the use of computer-based games, also known as Serious Games (SG). The chapter describes the learner engagement in relation to the use of SG in individual and collaborative learning activities. The SG learning experience considers the learner engagement in the individual activities observed through their real use of the game and their perceptions of the usefulness of the game and the time-on-task spent. The collaborative use of SG considers additional mechanisms of engagement related to the intragroup relationships – relationships within the same members of the group – and intergroup relationships – relationships between the different groups – such is the degree of interdependence and the degree of competition in the game. The state of the art in the learner engagement in the use of individual and collaborative SG is based in a literature review, and completed by the study case of the individual and the collaborative use of the eFinance Game or eFG (MetaVals) in ESADE Business & Law School. We analyse the current challenges and transfer the knowledge created through the eFG case for the practitioners aiming to promote learners’ engagement through the use of individual and collaborative SG.

E-learning has the potential to engage learners in ways that is not possible in a conventional classroom environment. Nevertheless, for this unique capability of e-learning to be optimised, a good understanding of learners’ need as to what motivate them to be engaged in activities is paramount. This chapter suggests strategies for engaging learners in e-learning based on past empirical studies on computer games characteristics and an exploratory study on values influencing learners’ decisions to engage in activities. The exploratory study in this chapter adopted qualitative research methods of Kelly Repertory grid and laddering interview based on the means-end chain (MEC) theory. Based on the exploratory study, value dimension was added to the existing literature. The value dimension of excitement, warm relationship with others and sense of accomplishment were revealed as important to learners in their decision whether to engage in activities. Strategies for e-learning instructions that promote the revealed values were suggested with the aim of integrating the value dimension with the existing literature as well as proven teaching approaches.

Gamification, the integration of game mechanics to influence behavior and engagement, is a much-touted method of improving participant action. Characteristics of online video games (e.g., World of Warcraft, Farmville, The Sims) have been shown to improve motivation, sustain learner engagement, and increase satisfaction. Gamification is used in websites, businesses, medicine, law enforcement, and increasingly in education. However, gamification is only beneficial to an activity if the relationship between the activity and the final goal are understood. This chapter looks at the gamification in education, in particular second language acquisition, and examines seven basic game mechanics: achievement, appointment, rewards, leaderboards, privacy, social engagement loops (or viral mechanics), and modifiers. The discussion describes implementation of game mechanics and potential pitfalls of gamification.

This chapter presents two established pedagogical techniques to increase student engagement, simulations and peer assessment. The use of each technique, its benefits and drawbacks, and how content knowledge and student engagement increase are detailed. While each of the approaches can be utilized independently to create active learning environments, this chapter illustrates the potential to extend these approaches further. An overview of an MBA-level elective on competitive analysis structured around a simulation and peer assessment is presented. The result is a highly interactive and engaging course where the simulation and peer assessments achieve symbiotic benefits. Learning and performance in the simulation is enhanced by the application of competitive analyst reports which are used by peer “clients.” Assessment in turn leads to greater insights to the simulation, and subsequently higher levels of performance on both the simulation and future analysis work. Insights on these instructional methods, their limitations, and potential barriers to adoption are offered with the hope of inspiring others to utilize and experiment with novel approaches for further enhance learner engagement.

Preparing future teachers requires teacher educators to share both theory and its translation to best practice. Traditional approaches to this learning process include textbooks, case studies, role-play, observation, and eventually fieldwork in a classroom. Understanding what their future students need or appropriately responding to situations in the classroom is far different than the reality of teaching in schools. Although case studies provide an opportunity for perspective taking, collaboration, and developing problem solving skills in a safe environment, it is still a relatively passive experience. The use of virtual worlds to create engaging simulations offers a possibility in bridging this gap between theory and practice. The School of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University has designed a virtual world simulation to provide college students with the opportunity to be immersed in a virtual classroom setting in which they take on the roles of avatar teachers and grade school students who may require various modifications/accommodations. This chapter will discuss the design and implementation of this project. Data were collected on the students’ experiences in order to assess possible learning gains, affordances of the technology, and lessons learned for future educators who are considering the implementation of virtual world technologies.

Engaging students in an active, self-directed approach to learning about leadership is best accomplished through personalized self-awareness, reflection, and connection to real-time, practical applications/examples through experiential learning. This is especially challenging for students whose cultural backgrounds, language, and/or educational preparation/training predispose them to more passively “receive knowledge” in an unquestioning, unexamined manner, without critical thinking. At the University of Greenwich Business School, a final year course has been re-imagined as personalized leadership development integrated with learning technology. Our teaching team is taking advantage of an interactive virtual simulation (vLeader) to engage Chinese students who otherwise might not participate fully in the expected manner of a Westernized learning environment. This chapter outlines our integrated approach to support and engage these students in learning outcomes for continuing success in their lives, careers, and leadership opportunities.

Against the backdrop of digital gaming, this chapter presents a cutting-edge, immersive, online video simulation of events that follow the calendar of a year in a chronically low-performing middle school in the United States. The traditional approach to preparing educational leaders has been harshly criticized by those who have, at times, shared in sustaining the traditional approach. The time is right for innovation. The intention of this simulation is to engage potential educational leaders in the professional development of their leadership skills. These skills are designated in a range of standards-based documents generated by the individual states in the United States, as well as at the national level by the Educational Leadership Policy Standards: 2008 document issued by the Council of Chief State School Officers. A highly sophisticated back-end to this simulation gathers evidence of both engagement and learning. The online format empowers anytime/anywhere learning in a mistake-tolerant educational setting at minimal incremental cost.

Education and new technologies travel parallel pathways, with each often informing development of the other. In recent decades, educators have utilized technologies, such as television and the Internet, to develop and deliver course content. More recently, another technology has emerged that might possibly change education as it is currently practiced. Augmented reality merges manipulable digital imagery into real-world spaces and in real time. The technologies used to create augmented environments already exist in the mass market and have already begun to show up in a wide variety of fields, including education. This chapter will provide an overview of augmented reality and explore current and potential uses in higher education.

Virtualization is the simulation or emulation of computer resources to the user (Grauer, n.d.; Simpson, 2008). This chapter discusses virtualization as a viable classroom methodology for providing students with course relevant hands-on experience (Simpson, 2008) while synchronizing course specific content in traditional on-ground and online courses (Pheils, 2010). More specifically, this chapter provides an overview of virtualization, detailing several open source tools, and offering possible applications for incorporation into other courses including free resources for sample content. Proof-of-concept is established through examples of successful usage at two colleges. The adoption of virtualization within course development may provide a solution that spans disciplines and offers students the ability to practice and further their studies beyond the classroom.

As costs around the world continue to rise for education, institutions must become innovative in the ways they teach and grow students. To do this effectively, professors and administrative staff should push toward the utilization of Open Source Software (OSS) and virtual tools to enhance or supplement currently available tools. In developing countries, OSS applications would allow students the ability to learn critical technological skills for success at small fraction of the cost. OSS also provides faculty members the ability to dissect source code and prepare students for low-level software development. It is critical that all institutions look at alternatives in providing training and delivering educational material regardless of limitations going forward as the world continues to be more global due to the increased use of technologies everywhere. Doing this could provide a means of shortening the education gap in many countries. Through reviewing the available technology, possible implementations of these technologies, and the application of these items in graduate coursework could provide a starting point in integrating these tools into academia. When administrators or faculty debate the possibilities of OSS, gaming, and simulation tools, this applied research provides a guide for changing the ability to develop students that will be competitive on a global level.

Educational Robotics is a research field aimed at promoting an active engaging learning through the artifacts students create and the phenomena they simulate. In fact, designing, building, and programming a small robot, users discover and learn in a playful and joyful way. Moreover, the constructivist approach fosters the development of creative and critical skills, as well as problem-solving, communication skills, cooperation, and teamwork. This chapter presents the results of a research with university students, carried out at the Università della Calabria (Italy): an Educational Robotics laboratory has been integrated in a Cognitive Psychology Course in order to examine the kind of learning, workgroup retention, and engagement. Outcomes show that engaging experiences can remarkably enhance students’ learning efficiency and retention of the acquired materials. Moreover, a rich interaction can provide entertaining and appealing experiences capable of promoting learning and understanding.

Student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are the most frequent form of faculty performance in the classroom, though they tend to be used as summative rather than formative evaluations. In this chapter, a project involving the use of a virtual learning environment for formative, weekly SETs is explored from both the student and faculty point of view at a rural university college in the United Kingdom. This project encouraged student participation in creating the learning environment and faculty reflection on how to improve the student experience. From the student perspective, the weekly anonymous evaluations were useful for providing feedback; however, students tended to only respond if they were not satisfied with the faculty member. The exception to this was that some students were more motivated to complete the evaluation forms if they believed the faculty member was utilising their feedback. From the faculty perspective, the feedback was not as detailed as they had expected, and some questioned whether it was worth the effort of conducting formative evaluations if the response rate was so low. Others used the feedback for reflective purposes, and it was found that those that reflected on their work at higher levels tended to receive a greater year-on-year increase in their end of year teaching evaluations.

Jonathan Becker is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership of the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA. Jonathan's teaching and scholarly endeavors occur at the intersection of educational technology, policy, law and leadership. Currently, Jonathan is serving as the evaluator of a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop simulations and to support leadership preparation and is a co-investigator of an NSF-funded grant targeted at research and development of science curriculum modules for students in underserved areas.

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Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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