Authors have noted the increasing importance of avatars in Higher Education, as more teaching is conducted virtually, drawing upon gaming conventions. However, it is also recognised that little is known about how students make use of avatars (especially over an extended period) and the subsequent impact on learning experiences. For the last three years, a university module has been conducted within a persistent virtual world – where students (49 in 2020; 95 in 2021; 122 in 2022) predominantly interact with each other and teaching staff in avatar form. Observation data constitutes 60 hours of video recordings of virtual world seminars. Students have also been surveyed (average 40% response rate) and interviewed. The experience of learning on this module while in avatar form has been extremely positive, with students expressing many advantages to being an avatar – including the ability to express oneself in original/engaging ways, the ability to move freely in the environment (less restricted by social norms), increased confidence to speak up in class, reduced concern over actual physical appearance, and being praised for their avatar. Nevertheless, disadvantages were also apparent, including the distracting nature of certain avatars, inappropriate behaviours, usability challenges in designing an avatar, and lack of sense of self. An initial design framework for the use of avatars in Higher Education is proposed.
Burnett, Gary and Harvey, Catherine
"An Investigation of the Advantages and Disadvantages of University Students as Avatars in Virtual Learning Spaces,"
International Journal of Emerging and Disruptive Innovation in Education : VISIONARIUM: Vol. 1:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lindenwood.edu/ijedie/vol1/iss1/2