The Promise and Pitfalls of Virtual Worlds to Enhance STEM Education Success: Summary of the GSAA BreakThru Model

  • Robert L. ToddEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9177)


The Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance (GSAA) is a research project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program, grants 1027635 and 1027655. A collaborative RDE Alliance, it combines the expertise of the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Launched in 2010 and projected for completion in 2016, GSAA is one of 10 RDE Alliances throughout the United States designed to broaden the participation and achievement of people with disabilities in STEM education and careers. Although the GSAA encompasses many innovative features to achieve its goals, its core features are the use of virtual worlds (Second Life) and online and smartphone technologies to enhance student success through mediated mentoring, collectively referred to as the BreakThru project. This paper will provide provide a brief summary of the status of the use of virtual worlds in STEM education, as well as an overview of the GSAA BreakThru goals, theory of change, demographics, and subject participation. It will posit conclusions that can be advantageous in future research on online, mediated approaches to enhanced education, to ensure the maximum potential for all students to complete educational goals.


STEM education Disability Accessibility Electronic mentoring Virtual worlds Online education 



BreakThru is a project of the Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance, which is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) Awards # 1027635 and #1027655. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA)Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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