, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 79–86 | Cite as

Virtual Reality as a Pedagogical Tool to Design for Social Impact: a Design Case

  • Tiffany A. RomanEmail author
  • Jon Racek
Original Paper


Three-dimensional (3-D) virtual environments have key affordances that can improve learning, particularly when context, culture, and pedagogical aims are aligned to a given learning situation. One challenge in detailing effective uses of 3-D virtual environments in teaching and learning contexts is that the design judgments involved are not always made explicit. We argue that the transparency of design judgments, as it relates to the use of 3-D virtual environments, are critically important. This article advances scholarship of emerging technologies by detailing the design judgments of a university instructor within a Design for Social Impact cross-disciplinary course. To address learner needs and the cultural aims of an authentic client-based project, the instructor directed students to sketch design ideas within Google Blocks, which allows users to create 3-D models in virtual reality. This design case provides precedent for practitioners interested in how 3-D virtual environments can align to learning contexts, cultures, and pedagogical aims.


Virtual reality Emerging technologies Pedagogy Culture Design Authentic learning Instructional design Social impact 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Asino, T. I., Giacumo, L. A., & Chen, V. (2017). Culture as a design “next”: theoretical frameworks to guide new design, development, and research of learning environments. The Design Journal, 20(sup1), S875–S885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baepler, P., Walker, J. D., Brooks, D. C., Saichaie, K., & Petersen, C. I. (2016). A guide to teaching in the active learning classroom: History, research, and practice. Sterling: Stylus Publishing, LLC.Google Scholar
  3. Boling, E. (2010). The need for design cases: disseminating design knowledge. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 1(1), 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boling, E., Alangari, H., Hajdu, I. M., Guo, M., Gyabak, K., Khlaif, Z., . . . Techawitthayachinda, R. (2017). Core judgments of instructional designers in practice. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 30(3), 199–219.Google Scholar
  5. Constable, H. (1994). A study of aspects of design and technology capability at key stage 1 and 2. In IDATER ‘94 (pp. 9–14).Google Scholar
  6. Dalgarno, B., & Lee, M. J. (2010). What are the learning affordances of 3-D virtual environments? British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 10–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dalsgaard, P. (2017). Instruments of inquiry: understanding the nature and role of tools in design. International Journal of Design, 11(1), 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Egan, B. (1999). Children talking about designing: How do young children perceive the functions/uses of drawing as part of the design process? In IDATER ‘99 (pp. 79–83).Google Scholar
  9. Fowler, C. (2015). Virtual reality and learning: where is the pedagogy? British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(2), 412–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Howard, C. D., Boling, E., Rowland, G., & Smith, K. M. (2012). Instructional design cases and why we need them. Educational Technology, 52(3), 34.Google Scholar
  11. Lemons, G., Carberry, A., Swan, C., Jarvin, L., & Rogers, C. (2010). The benefits of model building in teaching engineering design. Design Studies, 31(3), 288–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Reigeluth, C. (1999). Instructional-design theories and models (Vol. 2). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Instructional TechnologyKennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA
  2. 2.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations