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Education in Virtual Worlds

New forms of learning in virtual environments

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The learning potential of gamification

This article will provide an overview of the learning potential of virtual environments.  Given how much of their free time young people spend on computer games, why not include students’ knowledge and experiences with game universes in teaching? This would mesh well with the long tradition in Danish primary schools of including "real life" in our teaching.

 What are 3D learning environments?

The following two links to machinima, short films in virtual worlds, environments is in my  illustrate 3D learning environments.
Arcadia is a current virtual island project (TILA -

Pookymedia - "Pest control" was made in the virtual world known as Second Life. Avatars act as the characters in the role play.

Why work with language training in a 3D universe?

  • Language learning develops and improves with practice.
  • Language teachers are collaborating internationally to devise courses in this medium.
  • Technology gives us an inexpensive way to communicate synchronously with partners (e.g., via the Internet, Skype, Adobe Connect and Google Hangout.)
  • 3D technology enables us to build a virtual universe where we can create an immersive presence (via our avatars) between teachers and students in international collaborative projects in language teaching.
  • The spoken language is given much more focus since the avatars cannot mirror our facial expressions and body language at this time.

Students use English in their spare time every day

Birgitte Holm Sørensen, a professor at ForskningsLab IT and Learning Design at the Department of Learning and Philosophy at Aalborg University, Denmark, and head of the research project "Serious Games in a Global Marketplace," has noted that “students play computer games every day, and in the games there is a need to learn English to succeed."  (  She, therefore, recommends:

  • All subjects should integrate "Gamification."
  • Competition and challenges should enter our teaching.

What is gamification?

In recent years, the learning potential of "gamification" via computer games has become more and more a part of school instruction, and businesses have been using simulation games for years.

André Chercka from Glostrup Production School, Denmark,  (

wrote in an article about his work with Minecraft:

"In many ways this project is similar to a course in process-oriented writing.  Here writing is complimented by building in virtual spaces and supplemented by test and feedback.”

Games for teaching--range of subjects

The Danish game developer "Serious Games Interactive" was the winner of the prestigious European award "Best Education and Learning Serious Game" at the festival "Fun and Serious Game Festival" in Bilbao, Spain, in 2013 with their game "Cargo Dynasty."

The game has been called "Denmark's biggest and most expensive game for teaching in primary schools and Danish business education."

Cargo Dynasty is an educational computer game where you are an entrepreneur building your own transport dynasty. (

2 different types of virtual worlds
Computer games and Second Life/Open Simulators--what's the difference?

Computer games are geared towards a specific purpose and consist of tasks. To solve the tasks, certain skills are required.  Second Life/Open Simulator are more user-driven in terms of content. Users can come up with their own purposes and tasks.

The virtual world of Second Life used as a simulation of "Innovative Learning"

In 2009 the winner of "The Danish National e-Learning Award" was the VIA University College, Campus Horsens v/ Åge Staghøj, who established the island "Innovative Learning" in Second Life.

The learning environment was designed as a building site and intended for the safety and environmental courses.

EU - Commission
Several pan-European educational projects are dealing with teaching in 3D virtual worlds.

I participated in the 2011 EU project “AVATAR:  Added Value of Teaching in a Virtual World."

In 2014 the EU Commission also supported two new large educational projects dealing with teaching in 3D virtual worlds.

1)   EU project TILA - (Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition--

For movies on Arcadia, the project's virtual island built in OpenSim, watch:  (2 min.)

For an example of a language project of German teachers at two schools in the U.S., watch “Language teaching in OpenSim,” David Parrott and Barbara Simpson  (8 min.)

2)  The EU CAMELOT stands for "Creating Machinima Empowers Live Online Language  Teaching and Learning."  (  This project is a 2-year project for language teachers on how to make movies (machinima) in a virtual world.

MOOC teacher course "Film production for language teachers in a 3D universe"

In January-February of last year, I was a moderator for a free teacher e-learning course--MachinEVO.  It was the third year we organized this Global MOOC course (Massive Open Online Course, We had more than 200 registered participants from 18 different nations.

How to use the virtual world of Second Life beyond teaching?

Why use 3D virtual worlds for language teaching?

Barbara McQueen, a teacher trainer for Oxford Seminars and the University of San Francisco, produced “Why SLESL?” to answer this question. (9 min.)

What is the educational and didactic value of gamification and virtual worlds now and in the coming years?

  • For many people now and many more people in the future, the global world will be our workplace.  We have broken the boundaries of time and place, and gamification and virtual worlds may become ubiquitous.
  • The learning potential through gamification is becoming accepted.  It is fun and well understood by our students.
  • We will need to establish a superstructure on the European eTwinning through collaborative teacher projects using 3D virtual environments.
  • Simulations, construction activities, and role playing are commonly used in virtual worlds now.  What other activities should we explore?
  • Will new school reform call for a longer and more varied school day, digitization, and new approaches to learning?
  • The international dimension of education needs to be expanded with schools, as well as individuals,collaborating often and extensively.
  • Fortunately, many 3D environments are free and users produce and share a great deal of content.
  • Asynchronous and synchronous projects can both have significant roles.

About the author:

Apart from being a good friend of mine, Jens is a teacher, writer, film maker and ICT consutant.

Jens Kjaer Olsen:

Danish Language Teacher, Media and ICT Adviser

Educational Diploma in ICT - Adviser from DPU 2001

Virtual Learning Consultant at RealDream

Editor at EMU - “Træneren”
Worked at 10eren Youth Center Glostrup, Denmark
EU Avatar project in 2011:

Case study: "Learning English as a Foreign Language in SL" - http: //

Since 2011 Jens has also been involved in designing courses for educators on filmmaking in a virtual environment, like  Machinevo

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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