Unpacking frames of reference to inform the design of virtual world learning in higher education

Katherine Wimpenny, Maggi Savin-Baden, Matt Mawer, Nicole Steils, Gemma Tombs

Abstract


In the changing context of globalised higher education, a series of pedagogical shifts have occurred, and with them, a number of interactive learning approaches have emerged. This article reports on findings taken from a large-scale study that explored the socio-political impact of virtual world learning on higher education in the UK, specifically with regard to Second Life. Three dominant frames of reference emerged following analysis of data gathered from student and staff perspectives of their experience and use of Second Life, namely: (i) games and gaming media; (ii) disciplinary learning; and (iii) institutional space and ownership. Such frames of reference were evident in the practices of those involved in using virtual worlds, but it is suggested here that they have largely been overlooked in the literature in terms of their impact and how they may inform learner understandings. We argue that these frames of reference need to be recognised and located in the design and use of virtual worlds in higher education. Throughout the article we present our findings in relation to perspectives emanating from Europe as well as Australasia and the wider Asia Pacific.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.848