An evaluation of implementing problem-based learning scenarios in an immersive virtual world

Maggi Savin-Baden1, Cathy Tombs1, Terry Poulton2, Emily Conradi2, Sheetal Kavia2, David Burden3 and Chris Beaumont4

1Learning Innovation Research Group, Coventry University, UK

2E-Learning Unit, Centre for Medical and Healthcare Education, St. George's University of London, UK

3Daden Limited, Moseley, Birmingham, UK

4Edge Hill Business School, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK

Submitted: 19/07/2011; Accepted: 10/10/2011; Published: 14/10/2011

Int J Med Educ. 2011; 2:116-124; doi: 10.5116/ijme.4e92.b22f

© 2011 Maggi Savin-Baden et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: This paper will describe a project adopting a pedagogical approach that implemented and evaluated a problem-based learning project in an immersive virtual world. The project involved an iterative process of testing scenarios using student feedback to improve upon the scenarios.

Methods: The study used illuminative evaluation which is argued to take account of wider contexts than more traditional evaluation and, is primarily concerned with description and interpretation rather than measurement and prediction. The evaluation encompassed formative elements to inform the project team and summative elements to establish the worth of what was achieved.

Results: The findings in many ways were more positive than initially anticipated, but there were also a number of challenges. The themes that emerged for the data were technological challenges, pedagogical design, usability and avatar identity, collaboration and Interaction.

Conclusions: Students appreciated the value of Second Life as a collaborative environment, but also viewed such practice-based simulations as valuable for individual work. An interesting consequence of the richness and authenticity of the Second Life scenarios is the large amount of detail provided, much more than is usual in paper-based face-to face problem-based learning sessions.