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Language learning in virtual worlds: Research issues and methods
Hull University, England and Pisa University, Italy.
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
2012 (English)In: Researching Online Foreign Language Interaction and Exchange: Theories, Methods and Challenges / [ed] Dooly, Melinda & Robert O'Dowd, Bern: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2012, 1, 205-232 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The chapter addresses three central issues related to research into the use of virtual world environments for language learning, namely the increasing interest in such environments by educational communities and bodies, the nature of communication and human interaction in educational processes in these environments and the methods and tools currently at disposal for investigation.

The first part of the chapter gives an overview of the present status of virtual worlds in language education and discusses current best practice models. Why are educators opting for this particular type of platform?  In what way does it differ from other CMC tools and face-to-face learning? Can it be classified as a multimodal environment or is it something different again? What is the added educational value, i.e. the special affordances and situations that these types of environments represent both for teachers and learners in terms of motivation, immersion and participation How does created identity or lack of identity (the hiding behind the avatar issue, or even manipulation of identity through the avatar) affect the learning situation and communication? What are the parallels with gaming environments?

The second section takes up specific examples of research fields. One example is the type of research the authors already have conducted, i.e. the investigation of language pragmatic issues in an environment where traditional visual cues are more or less absent. This part also presents some viable methodological research frameworks such as Action research and Activity Theory models. The question of quantitative vs. qualitative research is also discussed.

The final part of the chapter deals with practical and ethical issues in this type of research. Practical issues include those of data collection (i.e. tools for recording), identification of relevant data (a constant problem in this area is that often too much data is collected) and interpretation of data and contextualisation of data. Issues of identity are central here – is a female avatar the same thing as a female student, for example? Ethical issues are also addressed with particular reference to the open and anonymous nature of virtual worlds. How do we inform and get our respondents’ consent? Can an avatar sign a consent form and is it legally binding? And how can we be sure that the avatars really represent the real people they claim to represent? 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bern: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2012, 1. 205-232 p.
, Telecollaboration in Education, 3
Keyword [en]
Virtual worlds, research methodology, language learning
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
English; Computer Systems; människa-datorinteraktion
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-59793ISBN: 978-3-0343-1155-7ISBN: 978-3-0351-0414-1OAI: diva2:556658
Available from: 2012-09-26 Created: 2012-09-25 Last updated: 2012-09-26Bibliographically approved

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