Student Feedback (re: Survey Data)**
Students that self-selected themselves for an online courses (including Economics for Non Majors, Introduction to Finance, or Business Ethics) were given the opportunity to voluntarily participate in virtual world learning activities. After the segment of the course that featured virtual world learning activities was concluded, students were asked to fill out a survey ranking the different simulations used in-world.
Research Findings Display [in the Game Theory & Strategy Lab]
Looking at the student survey data collected, according to student rankings of virtual world learning activities (on interactivity, engagement, and contribution to course learning outcomes), interactivity is an essential ingredient in engagement. That is, interactivity is highly correlated with engagement in all three instruction delivery modes (classroom instruction, traditional online instruction, and virtual world learning simulations).
At the same time interactivity is highly correlated with engagement, engagement is NOT equally correlated with increased learning outcomes. Engagement is only highly correlated with increased learning outcomes in traditional online learning (with a correlation coefficient = 0.79), and the different virtual world learning simulations (with a correlation coefficient = 0.87). Engagement is only moderately correlated with increased learning outcomes for the classroom learning activities.
Note: Correlation coefficient values between 0 and 0.3 (or 0 and -0.3) indicate a weak positive (or negative) relationship. Correlation coefficient values between 0.3 and 0.7 (or -0.3 and -0.7) indicate a moderate positive (or negative) relationship. Correlation coefficient values between 0.7 and 1.0 (or -0.7 and -1.0) indicate a strong positive (or negative) relationship.
Further, looking just at students’ views of level of engagement associated with different instructional delivery modes, students find virtual worlds learning simulations to be most engaging (4.4 on a 5.0 scale) followed by traditional online learning (4.1 on a 5.0 scale), with classroom learning considered to be the least engaging (3.5 on a 5.0 scale). In other words, while interactivity is essential to engagement, engagement is not essential to increased learning outcomes.
Finally, when examining student ratings of engagement, it is clear students gravitate towards topics that mean something to them (for example, gender dynamics in the workplace) and inspiring life stories from relevant historical figures (for example, “Meet the Economist”).
Early student feedback (with n = 37), included a disconnect between students’ interest in virtual world learning activities and the mandated use of virtual world learning activities in online courses. That is, 89 percent of the students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “virtual world learning activities are both interesting and useful.” Yet, only 27 percent of the students surveyed think virtual world learning activities should be a required part of future online courses.
In addition, the most frequently cited barrier to participation in the optional virtual world learning activities is a lack of non asynchronous learning activities. Also, student expect well developed (expansive) learning simulations. Simply providing a meeting space online is NOT sufficient to motivate students to voluntarily participate in virtual world learning activities.
Finally, providing a selection of asynchronous virtual world learning activities and pre-creating avatars for students led to higher student participation rates.
Interactivity is defined as involving the actions or imput of the user.
Engagement is defined as “kept my attention (and/or was fun to use).”
Increased learning outcomes is defined as “contributed to my understanding of course concepts.”