Developing learners’ dialogic collaborative problem-solving skills in a real-time 3D environment

Major, Louis; Twiner, Alison; Wegerif, Rupert and Waters, Mark (2022). Developing learners’ dialogic collaborative problem-solving skills in a real-time 3D environment. In: European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction: SIG 20 & 26 Biennial Conference 2022, 14-16 Sep 2022, Utrecht.


Gaming2Development (G2D: 2020-21) investigated learners’ dialogic interactions in - and virtually around - a powerful real-time 3D creation tool. Led by a team of academics, charitable partners and technology developers, design-based research involving four teachers and 50 students (aged 13-19) was undertaken in the north of England during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working in small groups, students participated in 12-hours of G2D workshops in classroom and home contexts. Through innovative access to virtual machines with necessary processing power, working synchronously, students used the Unreal Engine to work dialogically on a collaborative challenge-based learning task.

This presentation reports on an exploratory (embedded) single-case study of a two-day collaborative challenge involving one group of five Creative Digital Media students (aged 16-18) working remotely (non co-located). Data includes workshop observations, student-only discussion, student focus groups, and teacher interviews. Analysis involved systematically coding screen-/video-recorded workshops, sociocultural discourse analysis and thematic analysis.

Findings reveal how alongside drastic shifts in learning due to the pandemic, students worked creatively to overcome technical barriers and adapted their means of dialogue to ensure each group member’s contribution was appropriately represented. However, while most students saw advantages of contributing to the group effort, some still perceived barriers to this. Analysis of student-only dialogue also demonstrates different patterns of interaction compared to facilitated workshops. Our conjecture is that engagement in the workshops provided an opportunity for students’ to develop transferable skills: technical skills related to the real-time 3D environment, alongside future skills of collaborative dialogue and problem solving. However, it is apparent that the digital, physical, and social boundaries of home- and education-life were unclear and that this may have impeded dialogue. While acknowledging methodological limitations, the significance of this research lies in demonstrating the potential role of real-time 3D development environments in enabling new opportunities for educational dialogue to support collaborative problem-solving online.

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