Exploring authentic learning activities for enhanced learning outcomes: Adult learners and their perceptions of learning in a virtual world
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AbstractThe researcher sought to find out whether virtual worlds provided authentic, engaging and immersive learning experiences for students and whether these experiences had an impact on learning. The research reported in this thesis by journal-article format investigated student perceptions of their learning in a virtual world over a four-year period. Virtual world education has been a "hot" topic in recent years, however very little has been published relating to authentic learning activities, student perceptions of their engagement in learning activities and what, if any, impact this has on student learning outcomes. Five hundred and twenty-three off-campus and on-campus Education students at an Australian regional university participated in learning activities in a virtual world. An action research methodology was used, involving the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. Fifty-two thousand lines of inworld conversation (in Second Life), surveys, observations and student feedback were analysed to address the three main research questions that emerged from the literature. At all times, students' perceptions of their learning were a focus of the research, underpinned by adult learning theories and guided by action research methodology. This thesis is structured as an introduction, eleven peer reviewed publications and a conclusion, divided in to six chapters. The first chapter introduces the thesis and methodology undertaken, the second discusses adult learning theories and provides the context and background for the research. The third chapter outlines the impact that virtual worlds have on student learning outcomes. The fourth chapter discusses student perceptions of their engagement in virtual world learning activities. The fifth chapter explores student immersion in authentic virtual world learning activities. The final chapter concludes the thesis with an overview of the outcomes of the research and discusses future directions and areas for further research.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis