Learning is sometimes looked upon as being purely behavioral, but it is a process that takes place in a social context. This can be done by the observation of others, role-playing and in a reciprocal environment. In a way, Social Learning gives a level of empowerment to the learner allowing them to have more control, facilitate participation and have a common goal.
Social Learning and the Virtual world have in a way become a tool used in the Academia world. For the most part, games are used in learning, but when it comes to social learning in a virtual world, the mechanics of a game is not used. This makes learning different in the Social Virtual World (Bell). In Higher Education, there is combined learning which is called Blended Learning which incorporates the methods of a traditional classroom with digital media, this type of learning uses a virtual world platform which assists with critical thinking for real-world knowledge (Thorne)
Hew & Cheng (2010, p.34) state three distinct features of 3-D virtual worlds: an illusion of 3d space, an avatar to virtually represent the player and interactive tool for players to communicate with each other.
Cheng et al. (2015) state" children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have a severe deficiency in social understanding and skills"(p.222). Virtual environments present safe, controlled arenas for children with ASD to practice and observe appropriate social skills. Erenli & Ortner (2011) comments today's students are participating in virtual worlds frequently through gaming systems. To connect with the youth, schools should provide educational opportunities for students to participate in virtual environments.
The reasons why individuals elect to adopt a behavior over another are based on the Social Cognitive Theory or SCT. Chieh-Peng(2010) states" SCT has proven advantageous for understanding individuals' behavior in its contexts and given its focus on social and cognitive processes that govern human behavior, it is useful for learning loyalty behavior in settings of online communities"( p. 346). Some individuals are capable of developing behaviors by playing a video game but have difficulties learning others from direct contact with peers.
De Freitas et al. (2010) theorizes "the use of virtual worlds for more complex social interactions and designed learning experiences and role plays"(p. 69). The lessons can go beyond textbook application. Bower et al. (2017) suggest for the participating educators to synchronize lessons. This eliminates the repetition of topics between virtual classrooms. Johnson & Levine (2008) describe virtual worlds as an environment where students can perform higher order thinking by moving from concrete to the abstract. Students are encouraged to think outside of the stereotypical box.
Allmendinger (2010) suggests the current literature does not discriminate among the participants in regards to "gender, sociocultural, background, computer skills/attitudes, or learning preferences"(p.52). Traditionally, the current studies worked with small testing groups. Craig et al. (2015) state "employing larger sample sizes would allow us to investigate sub-group differences and explore mediational models that may impact treatment" (p. 966). In regards to virtual worlds and individuals with autism, Kandalaft et al. (2013) suggest future studies should be conducted on the facial and behavior recognition. Are the individuals conceptualizing the skills in across social settings?
Over the last decade, technology has substantially developed and changed the landscape of education. Today, most social learning activities have integrated different forms of technology to facilitate communication and transfer of information. Often, these technologies rely on online learning using 2-dimensional applications. However, education has not been left behind, and this area is also starting to embrace new forms of knowledge commonly identified as the virtual world. Unlike its 2-dimensional counterpart, the virtual world has distinct capabilities. For instance, the virtual world can generate a 3-dimensional social learning space and can amplify the sense of presence and immersion of students.
Most importantly, the virtual world can support more than one form of communication. Thus, using these unique capabilities of the virtual world and proper instructional strategies in learning online, unequivocally learning experience will be great. The virtual world has been considered an essential tool in education. To obtain a comprehensive view of social learning and a virtual world, it's worthwhile to explore gaps in the current research about the topic to give room for further analysis.
Based on the identified gaps in the current literature, the following general problem questions will be explored in the research project:
- RQ1: Do gender issues, sociocultural, background, and computer skills/attitudes influence social learning in a virtual world?
- RQ2: Would using a large sample preferably 2,500 participants give different results with regards to the role of a virtual world in social learning than the current studies that have only worked with small testing groups?
- RQ3: According to the recommendation of Kandalaft et al. (2013) that future studies should focus on the facial and behavior recognition, are the individuals conceptualizing the skills in across social settings?
Allmendinger, K. (2010). Social presence in synchronous virtual learning situations: The role of nonverbal signals displayed by avatars. Educational Psychology Review, 22(1), 41-56. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10648-010-9117-8
Bower, M., Lee, M. J., & Dalgarno, B. (2017). Collaborative learning across physical and virtual worlds: Factors supporting and constraining learners in a blended reality environment. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(2), 407-430. https://doi. org/10.1111/bjet.12435
Cheng, Y., Huang, C.-L., & Yang, C.-S. (2015). Using a 3D immersive virtual environment system to enhance social understanding and social skills for children with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities, 30(4), 222-236. https://doi. org/10.1177/1088357615583473
Chieh-Peng, L. (2010). Learning virtual community loyalty behavior from a perspective of social cognitive theory. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 26(4), 345-360. https://doi. org/10.1080/10447310903575481
Craig, A., Brown, E., Upright, J., & DeRosier, M. (2016). Enhancing children's social emotional functioning through virtual game-based delivery of social skills training. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 25(3), 959-968. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10826-015-0274-8
De Freitas, S., Rebolledo-Mendez, G., Liarokapis, F., Magoulas, G., & Poulovassilis, A. (2010). Learning as immersive experiences: Using the four-dimensional framework for designing and evaluating immersive learning experiences in a virtual world. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 69-85. https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.01024.x
Evenly, K., & Ortner, G. (2011). Collaborative and social learning using virtual worlds: Preparing students for virtually anything. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning., 4(3), 23-28. Retrieved from https://eds.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=5e0daa25-f7ae-44cd-b317-d1593e3be185%40sessionmgr101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=64935183&db=bth
Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2010). Use of three-dimensional (3-D) immersive virtual worlds in k-12 and higher education settings: A review of the research. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 33-55. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00900.x
Johnson, L. F., & Levine, A. H. (2008). Virtual worlds: Inherently immersive, highly social learning spaces. Theory Into Practice, 47(2), 161-170. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405840801992397
Kandalaft, M., Didehbani, N., Krawczyk, D., Allen, T., & Chapman, S. (2013). Virtual reality social cognition training for young adults with high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 43(1), 33-44. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-012-1544-6
Bell, M. W., Smith-Robbins, S., & Withnail, G. (2010). This is Not a Game - Social Virtual Worlds, Fun, and Learning. Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds, 177-191. doi:10.1007/978-1-84996-047-2_10
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