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A study entitled "Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World"

Here's the entire study, a dissertation. AbstractThis study took place...

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Suzanne Aurilio
24 May 2010

Here's the entire study, a dissertation.

This study took place in the online 3D virtual world Second Life®, a recreational environment designed for world-building and socializing, and intended for individuals 18 years old and older. It described learning from the perspective of Second Life® Residents and focused on their world-building activities. As a virtual ethnographer, my avatar interacted with seven main participant-avatars in-world. Real life ages ranged from 33 years old to mid 50s; all but one were women. I collected data from 20 other Residents also. The study contributes to a nascent body of educational research exploring new forms of inquiry and practice conceived in virtual worlds, and breaks new ground by positioning itself in terms of a constructionist-learning context in which adults actively engage. 

The findings reiterate previous research of learning in virtual worlds. It is situated, social, intrinsically engaging and requires a high degree of personal agency. Learning in Second Life®, however, typifies constructionist principles, and qualities of adult learning which, in practice, are relevant to children as learners too. The context-specific activities of world-building invoke in learners a capacity to be self-directed problem-solvers of concrete and personally meaningful tasks. These activities result in novel expressive forms, and performative expressions of self through one’s avatar. World-building engenders artists’ and artisans’ habits of mind in the forms of learning-by-doing and trial and error.
Compared with the larger population, Second Life® Residents are trailblazers. therefore proposed cyborg learners/learning as a formulation for characterizing the expressive forms and ways of learning documented here. 

  • Learners embody avatars in a 3D graphical space.
  • They are geographically dispersed.
  • They occupy at least two or more social and technological locations simultaneously.
  • Learning is technologically and socially platform-specific.
  • It is socially interdependent.
  • It depends on intrinsically motivating activities.
  • It engenders forms of learning-by-doing.

These findings contribute to a broad research paradigm addressing games for learning, mobile learning, open learning, personal learning environments (PLEs) and multi-user learning environments (MUVEs).

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