Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 979–999 | Cite as

SciEthics Interactive: science and ethics learning in a virtual environment

  • Larysa Nadolny
  • Joan Woolfrey
  • Matthew Pierlott
  • Seth Kahn
Development Article


Learning in immersive 3D environments allows students to collaborate, build, and interact with difficult course concepts. This case study examines the design and development of the TransGen Island within the SciEthics Interactive project, a National Science Foundation-funded, 3D virtual world emphasizing learning science content in the context of ethical dilemmas. The 2 year development process is examined through the lens of the rapid prototyping instructional design model, following the project from conceptualization to implementation of a 3D simulation. Through expert interviews, focus groups, and working groups, we were able to determine critical scientific and ethical issues to present to learners in the virtual world. We collected data on 53 students using the simulation at universities in the United States and South Africa and evaluated their experience using qualitative and quantitative methods. Results showed that student participants were engaged and motivated by the simulation. The students reported an increase in science knowledge and ethical understanding, but individual experiences varied.


Virtual environment Science Ethics Rapid prototyping Instructional design Opensim 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation EESE Program Award No. 0932712.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Larysa Nadolny
    • 1
  • Joan Woolfrey
    • 2
  • Matthew Pierlott
    • 3
  • Seth Kahn
    • 4
  1. 1.School of EducationIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyWest Chester University of PennsylvaniaWest ChesterUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyWest Chester University of PennsylvaniaWest ChesterUSA
  4. 4.Department of EnglishWest Chester University of PennsylvaniaWest ChesterUSA

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