Love it or hate it: students' responses to the experience of virtual worlds

Childs, Mark and Peachey, Anna (2011). Love it or hate it: students' responses to the experience of virtual worlds. In: Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds: Opening an Undiscovered Country.

Abstract

Effective experiential learning within virtual worlds requires students to engage with the virtual world, not only as active learners but also as embodied actors, fully immersed in the world, with a developed inworld identity and body image. These elements are one source of the added value that immersive virtual worlds bring to the educational experience, but can also be a source of anxiety and resistance for many students. In order to move forward with teaching and learning in virtual worlds, it is important that educators seek to understand these reactions and, furthermore, develop strategies to address them.

This paper will describe the range of responses displayed by students to virtual worlds, drawn from evidence collated during the authors’ seven years collective experience of teaching in virtual worlds. The responses can be attributed to a variety of cultural and value-based attitudes held by students to technology in general and to virtual worlds in particular. In addition, the authors note the potential existence of an “embodiment tendency” which may be the basis of an innate engagement with, or failure to connect with, virtual worlds.

Drawing on particular cases, and evidenced by students’ testimonies, the authors will set out a typology of students’ responses, both positive and negative. They will describe a framework proposal of strategies for engaging with these responses, and discuss the ethical implications that students’ negative opinions raise for educators making use of immersive virtual worlds.

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