The evolution and evaluation of an online role play through design-based research


  • Elizabeth Ann Beckmann Australian National University
  • Sango Mahanty Australian National University



online role-play, university, development studies, professional education


This paper presents selected findings from a 5-year design-based research case study of the evolution of an online role play that allows postgraduate students to explore the complexities inherent in land rights negotiations between indigenous peoples and others. In the context of Laurillard’s (2002) conversational framework and a design-based research methodology, diverse private and public discussion forum spaces were created for group negotiations on a learning management system (LMS) platform. Our analysis of the conversational framework structure in the evolved role play showed that all four stages – discursive, adaptive, integrative, and reflective – were evidenced, with the adaptive and integrative stages cycling through multiple times. The online role play, whilst implemented as a simple virtual world, facilitated personal, deep and socialised learning experiences focused on consultation, negotiation and decision-making. We also found that student anonymity was not necessary for full engagement in role play, and that students chose to incorporate communication technologies outside the LMS into their learning activities. This research shows that with a strong pedagogical design, and attention paid to an evidence-based iterative improvement cycle, online role plays can provide powerful collaborative learning experiences.


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Author Biographies

Elizabeth Ann Beckmann, Australian National University

Senior Lecturer Staff Education Teaching & Learning)
Centre for Higher Education, Learning & Teaching

Sango Mahanty, Australian National University

Senior Research and Teaching Fellow, Resources, Environment & Development Group, Crawford School of Public PolicyANU College of Asia and the Pacific




How to Cite

Beckmann, E. A., & Mahanty, S. (2016). The evolution and evaluation of an online role play through design-based research. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 32(5).