This Leverhulme Foundation-funded project is based at the Learning Innovation Applied Research Group at Coventry University.

To date learning in immersive worlds is under-researched and the extensive possibilities for its use need to be better understood in order to realise its potential. Furthermore, the impact of learning in such worlds in terms of students’ conceptions of reality, their relationship between in-world and real-world behaviour and issues of representation along with perceptions of honesty, disclosure and collaboration, bear further research. This study will use participatory action research to examine staff and students from a wide range of disciplines in Higher Education Institutions across the UK. It will investigate their conceptions of and decisions about the way in which they teach and learn at the socio-political boundaries of reality. This study will focus on the exploration of three main themes

1. Students’ experiences of learning in immersive worlds.
2. Pedagogical design.
3. Learner identity.

Learning in immersive worlds (simulations and virtual worlds such as Second Life) has become a central learning approach in many curricula, but the socio political impact of virtual world learning on higher education remains under-researched. Much of the recent research into learning in immersive worlds centres around games and gaming and is largely underpinned by cognitive learning theories that focus on linearity, problem-solving and the importance of attaining the ‘right answer’ or game plan. Most research to date has been undertaken into students’ experiences of virtual learning environments, discussion forums and perspectives about what and how online learning has been implemented. This is because spaces such as second life are universal, not bounded by time or geography and in particular adopt different learning values than other learning spaces. Furthermore, it may be that identity and identity construction in virtual worlds occurs through dialogic learning rather than gaming.

An article on this can be found in the Leverhulme Newsletter for September 2008