Engagement and Social Presence in a Virtual Worlds (Second Life) Learning Environment
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to understand the nature of learning experiences of cross-cultural, cross-national university students engaged in designing a collaborative learning activity in mixed groups both in a synchronous 3D virtual world environment and in an asynchronous text-mediated communication environment. The study uses the framework of engagement and social presence theory to explore differences in student perceptions related to their interactions in both environments. The study results indicated that there are unique challenges in conducting cross national collaborative learning projects. These included limited English skills of non Native English speakers, technology difficulties experienced by students with limited bandwidth access or computing capabilities, and, lastly, challenges of scheduling synchronous meetings because of time differences. Students that were satisfied with the project and connected to the group reported on higher engagement in the course.