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Learning design: Simulating accident investigation in virtual worlds

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Gráinne Conole
15 April 2011

This role play enables students to carry out investigations of simulated accidents in the virtual world “Second Life” by inspecting a virtual workplace and interviewing real accident witnesses. It supports learning in the risk element of a Master’s module in environmental health practice.

  1. What are the key benefits of this design and what forms of pedagogy does it promote?
  2. Do you know of other similar examples?

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Professor Liz Falconer
11:14am 8 July 2011

Hi Grainne,

Just came across this posting and thought I'd answer your questions - or at least start the discussion! 

The detailed evaluation is on our research website at  - that's of the first run of this last academic year. It ran again this year with an additional risk assessment and I'm just going through the analysis of this year's evaluation. We've concentrated a bit more on immersive tendencies this time, too, to see if there appears to be any correlation between the students experiences, learning outcomes and their tendency to immerse. The whole notion of presence (of which immersive tendency is seen to be a part) is also a research interest for us.

Re pedagogies (or perhaps more correctly andragogies as the students are adults - although I'm sure that will spark a whole debate on its own!) it is clearly a situated learning technique.  The contextual element of role play in virtual worldsappears to be one of the most notable improvements on classroom-based role play from the students point of view, and their comments predominantly relate to how real the exercises felt, despite the fact that they are in a virtual world. From a tutor point of view it's quite simple - this is the only way I can enable the students to carry out a realistic accident investiation. It's impossible in the physical world for practical and ethical reasons.

I've searched around for other examples of accident investigations in virtual worlds and can't find any, although there is a wide range of business simulations going on in SL. We've got papers coming out about these exercises as well as the confernce presentations we're doing this year, so I hope we can start to get a discussion and dialogue around this.

All the best for your new post at Leicester - we've been in touch with some of your colleagues about possibly working together in SL, so maybe we'll meet soon.


Liz. Falconer

Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning

Director, Education Innovation Centre ( )

University of the West of England

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