Anticipating Engagement: Pre-service Teachers’ Perceptions of Virtual Worlds

  • Lisa Jacka
  • Matthew Hill


The need to engage students has become a significant driver in how courses are designed and delivered in both universities and K-12 schools. Virtual worlds are a technology that is promoted as highly engaging and as such require our attention. At a regional university in NSW, students in the Bachelor of Education (Secondary) were introduced to new ways to conceptualise their future classrooms with an emphasis on emerging pedagogies and ICTs, including virtual worlds. A mixed methods data analysis was applied to 311 blog posts, gathered over a three-year period, to ascertain the students’ perceptions of virtual worlds. Significantly, 45% of all posts mentioned perceived engagement with virtual worlds by children as a reason to utilise virtual worlds in the classroom. However, the perception of engagement did not always correspond to the students’ perception that the virtual world would be effective in the classroom due to a number of barriers to implementation. Analysis of the student responses also highlighted the perceived connection between engagement and the creative aspects of virtual worlds. This research has implications for the design of pre-service teacher education with ICTs, more generally, and strategies for learning design that responds to the integration of ICTs such as virtual worlds now and in the future. These implications are also tentatively transferable to educators in general, not just pre-service teachers.


  1. Arnone, M. P., Small, R. V., Chauncey, S. A., & McKenna, H. P. (2011). Curiosity, interest and engagement in technology-pervasive learning environments: a new research agenda. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), 181–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baranauskas, C. C., Neto, N. G. G., & Borges, M. A. (2001). Learning at work through a multi-user synchronous simulation game. International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life Long Learning, 11(3), 251–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carr, D., Oliver, M., & Burn, A. (2010). Learning, teaching and ambiguity in virtual worlds. In A. Peachey (Ed.), Researching learning in virtual worlds (pp. 17–30). London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Vol. 38). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  5. Crookall, D., Oxford, R., & Saunders, D. (1987). Towards a reconceptualization of simulation: From representation to reality. Simulation/Games for learning, 17, 147–171.Google Scholar
  6. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of educational research, 74(1), 59–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gredler, M. E. (1996). Educational games and simulations: A technology in search of a (research) paradigm. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (Vol. 39, pp. 521–540). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  8. Gregory, S., & Masters, Y. (2012). Real thinking with virtual hats: A role-playing activity for pre-service teachers in Second Life. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(3), 420–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harp, S. F., & Mayer, R. E. (1998). How seductive details do their damage: A theory of cognitive interest in science learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jacka, L., & Booth, K. (2012). Pre-service teachers designing virtual world learning environments. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 3(4), 16–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jacka, L., & Booth, K. (2013). What about the firewall? Creating virtual worlds in a public primary school using Sim-on-a-Stick. Australian Educational Computing, 27(2), 13–17.Google Scholar
  12. Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (1988). The action research planner. Victoria: Deakin University.Google Scholar
  13. Kohler, T., Fueller, J., Matzler, K., & Stieger, D. (2011). Co-creation in virtual worlds: The design of the user experience. MIS Quarterly, 35(3).Google Scholar
  14. Malone, T. W. (1980). What makes things fun to learn? A study of intrinsically motivating computer games. Palo Alto: Xerox.Google Scholar
  15. Mayer, R. E., & Johnson, C. I. (2010). Adding instructional features that promote learning in a game-like environment. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 42(3), 241–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McKeown, L., & Sanders, R. L. (2007). Promoting reflection through action learning in a 3D virtual world. International Journal of Social Sciences, 2(1), 50–55.Google Scholar
  17. McKeown Orwin, L. (2009). Action learning in a virtual world. In J. Molka-Danielsen & M. Deutschmann (Eds.), Learning and teaching in the virtual world of second life (pp. 91–102). Trondheim: Tapir Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. O’Brien, H. L., & Toms, E. G. (2008). What is user engagement? A conceptual framework for defining user engagement with technology. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(6), 938–955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reeve, J., & Tseng, C.-M. (2011). Agency as a fourth aspect of students’ engagement during learning activities. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36(4), 257–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Romero, M. (2012). Learner Engagement in the use of individual and collaborative serious games. In C. Wankel & P. Blessinger (Eds.), Increasing student engagement and retention using immersive interfaces: Virtual worlds, gaming and simulation (Vol. 6, pp. 15–34). UK: Emerald.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rowe, J. P., Shores, L. R., Mott, B. W., & Lester, J. C. (2011). Integrating learning, problem solving, and engagement in narrative-centered learning environments. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 21(1), 115–133.Google Scholar
  22. Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: The key to active online learning. London: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  23. Salmon, G. (2004). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. London: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  24. Salmon, G., Nie, M., & Edirisingha, P. (2010). Developing a five-stage model of learning in Second Life. Educational Research, 52(2), 169–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

Personalised recommendations