Successful Integration of Virtual Worlds in Learning Environments: A Case Study of a Supportive Learning Ecosystem

Document Type : Original Article


School of Education, Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia.


Background: Using virtual worlds with students and faculty in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) can provide exciting opportunities to develop innovative pedagogies. This work can begin in the ITE courses and filter into K-12 classrooms. Identifying the best practices is of the utmost importance in facilitating effective teaching and learning. The present case study seeks to highlight the elements that influence the successful integration of virtual worlds in learning environments. Methods: This case study was part of a more extensive participatory action research project (PAR). In that four-year project (2010-2014), data were gathered from over 1500 ITE students and six faculty at a regional university in Australia. The inductive analysis of the data gave rise to several case studies, one of which is presented in this paper. The data sets were obtained from virtual world interventions, surveys and interviews. Results: It was found that virtual worlds can support teachers in developing innovative pedagogical approaches in classrooms. However, resistance from one or more elements in the learning ecosystem can hamper the integration of virtual worlds into the educational landscape. These elements range from learners to technology systems. The inductive analysis identified the variables that influence the adoption of virtual worlds and facilitate innovative pedagogies. Conclusion: This paper delineates various elements of a learning ecosystem and their importance in the adoption of a sustainable virtual world, regardless of the learning application used. A specific case study is discussed here, since it best demonstrates the value of a supportive learning ecosystem and the practical ways of utilizing its elements to support future integration of virtual worlds. Suggestions are also made for future implementations in any faculty across a university.


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