An Educational Scenario Applied in Second Life

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E-learning has profoundly changed many aspects of our society in educational programs, in business, in economical fields etc. This new experience presents challenges since learners often have to handle the ambiguity of the new various learning environment, based on interactive technologies. These interactive technologies can play a significant role in engaging the learners with active roles, providing a rich learning environment.

E-learning programs can cover different delivery methods of teaching, ranging from face-to-face courses to multi-user online courses (LMS, VLE, CoP, mLearning technologies, forums).

In such various environments, the learners usually have a different set of needs, attitudes and skills as to learning and training. Factors such as self-beliefs (self concept, compute/self-efficacy) and self-regulation seem to be important contributors to the learning process in enhancing human performance (Paraskeva, Mysirlaki & Choustoulakis, 2009). However, these factors have received little attention in the design of e-learning environments. Moreover, the high dropout rate of e-learning is linked with low rates of self-motivation and self-direction in e-Learning (Martinez, 2003).

Therefore, we argue that e-learning environments should include tools and practices that would promote efficient procedures of learning and self-regulation strategies that would enable learners to manage their own learning in the workplace. In view of the need for designing e-learning environments that would enhance the development of self-regulation skills, we propose the use of Virtual worlds, such as Second Life, for supporting well-designed self-regulation scenarios and strategies.

This paper presents an educational scenario that was used to design learning activities that aim to develop self-regulation skills, in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) of Second Life.


21st Century Skills

In order to describe the people who grew up with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), authors used terms like "Next-generation", which stems from the term "Net Generation" (Tapscott, 1998), "digital natives" (Prensky, 2001), "millennials" (Howe & Strauss, 2000). "Generation @" (Opaschowski, 1999), "Homo Zapiens" (Pelevin & Bromfield, 2002) and "Google generation" (JISC, 2008). This new generation, use the latest technologies, such as social networks, online games and Virtual Worlds, spending thousands of hours analyzing new situations, interacting with characters they do not really know, and solving problems quickly and independently (Beck &Wade, 2004).

As Green and Hannon (2007) state, "the use of digital technology has been completely normalized by this generation and it is now fully integrated in their daily life".

The intensive use of these environments and the growing possibilities and new ways of working with the World Wide Web and Web 2.0 (O'Reilly, 2004; Downes, 2005), require a different set of skills in order to cope with the complexity and the faster pace of life, than people in the old days did. These are known as "the skills for 21st century", or "next generation skills" and they are all fundamental to the success of knowledge age (Galarneau & Zibit, 2006). In view of this fact, Dede (2000), has identified three specific abilities that are of growing importance:

The ability to collaborate with diverse teams of people to accomplish a task.

The ability to create, share, and master knowledge by assessing and filtering quasi-accurate information.

The ability to tolerate ambiguity; to be able to make rapid decisions based on incomplete information in order to resolve novel dilemmas and to have the "ability to learn from unforeseen situations and circumstances" (Canto-Sperber & Dupuy, 2001).

Nowadays learning is no longer perceived as an individual process, but as a social one, that is, now more than ever, influenced through a network of peers, colleagues, friends, and family (Riel & Polin, 2004; Seely-Brown, 2002). As our need for collaboration grows, so do the tools that connect us with social networks and support the creation of online communities (Haste, 2001; Schrage, 1990).

It is claimed that online communications facilitate groups of people coming together over the network to discuss any issue imaginable, to ask questions and share insights to which others can respond (Lessig, 2001). These online social environments can evolve into "online learning communities" enabling participants to actively engage in sharing ideas, and therefore leading to knowledge sharing. In these learning communities knowledge is generated through social interaction, through which we gradually accumulate advanced levels of knowing, according to theories derived from Dewey and Vygotsky (Anderson & Kanuka, 1998). The modern world requires that knowledge should not be limited to one individual, but rather that it should be shared and accessed in a variety of ways.

We argue that educational environments should aim at developing these needs in order to train people with 21st century skills. Nevertheless, it is surprising that many people today do not acquire these skills through structured learning environments which anticipate these needs, but rather through various "cognitively-demanding leisure" activities they choose to engage in, including to an ever-increasing degree, videogames (Johnson, 2005) and virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

Stemming from the need for developing 21st century skills, education needs to be reformed. A number of different studies are pointing out that students are using new technologies in their everyday life but the use within their training institutions is simply moderate (Conole et al. 2006; Bullen et al. 2008). According to this view, innovative tools, such as 3D environments and virtual worlds, are maybe just what we need to teach the new generation 21st century skills.

Self-Regulation Theory

Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) is an active process, whereby learners set goals for their learning and then attempt to monitor, regulate, and control their behavior (motivations, self-beliefs, cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies, self-management) guiding their goals to performance [18]. As Montalvo and Torres state "they know how to plan, control and direct their mental processes toward the achievement of personal goals (metacognition), plan and control the time and effort to be used on tasks" (Montalvo & Torres, 2004, p.3) . What seems to characterize self-regulated learners is their active participation in the learning process, from a metacognitive, motivational and behavioral view (Zimmerman, 2001; 2002), leading to their high-performance and capacity (Montalvo & Torres, 2004).

Self-regulated learning has become an important field for research, and one of the essential axes of educational practice (Pintrich, 2000; Reynolds and Miller, 2003). Several models for applying self-regulation strategies in the classroom have been evolved (Boekaerts, Pintrich & Zeidner, 2000; Corno, 2001; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998), and most of them emphasize on skills such as self-development, motivations, goals and achievements, which help people focus on the learning task, select and apply appropriate strategies, and monitor goal progress (Schunk, 2001). As Boekaerts and Corno support "modern ideas about goal pursuit call into question the notion that there is a direct, uninterrupted path from goal-setting to accomplishing goals. Instead, goal pursuit is viewed as a complex path that sometimes reflects engagement, sometimes disengagement, and sometimes avoidance or delay" (Boekaerts & Corno, 2005). Goals enhance self-regulation through their effects on motivation, learning strategies, self-efficacy, recourses management and self-evaluation of progress (Bandura, 1997; Schunk, 1996).

Self-Regulation in E-Learning Environments

Self-Regulation seems to be an important skill for every learner who wants to actively participate in the learning process and having a high-performance in a class. However, what happens when learning takes place in an e-learning environment rather than in a traditional classroom? Despite its appealing to the world, e-learning can be demotivating for students, because of technological, intrapersonal, and interpersonal obstacles that they may encounter (Bures, Amundsen, and Abrami 2002; Schrum, Burbank, Engle, Chambers, and Glassett 2005; Schmeekle, 2003). A hallmark of e-learning is its reliance on self-directed learning (West, 2009).

It seems that distance learners use metacognitive strategies more than face to face students (Anderson, 2007) and that in computer-mediated environments learners must have self-regulation skills to make up for the absence of motivating and supporting factors such as group pressure, familiar learning situation, and social factors (Hodges, 2005). It is claimed that in order for computer-based learning environments to be effective, learners must be self-regulated (Lee, 2004).

Thus, in e-learning settings, there is need for the development of applications that can assist learners to regulate their own learning independent of the subject matter they are studying (Hadwin & Winne, 2001). Therefore, e-learning environments should provide self-regulation strategies in order to maximize learners' engagement to an e-learning course.

In addition, the latest shift of educational technology to collaborative e-learning environments calls for a redesign of self-regulated instruction. Collaborative learning seems to support self-regulation "because peers model their own learning and motivation strategies, which are then disseminated across the group for individuals to adopt and modify to suit their own needs" (Boekaerts & Corno, 2005). Co-regulation, involving the social interactions with teachers and peers, "shapes, even develops, the self-regulation process in the service of learning and achievement goals and that, consequently, measurement instruments should capture the quality of social interactions as they evolve in classrooms" (Boekaerts & Corno, 2005). Newer assessment techniques thus address the quality of students' developing self-regulation skills in so-called "powerful learning environments". Overall, learning models based on cognitive processes - such as self-regulated learning - could provide the theoretical basis for developing an instrument to design and assess educational applications.


Second Life (SL) is an online 3D virtual world, a persistent Multi-User Virtual

Environment (MUVE), that provides the users with the opportunity to create and modify not only their graphical representations (avatars), but also their space with built-in 3D content creation tools. It differs from 3D Massively Multi-User Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) in that it has no fixed missions, tasks or objectives based on predefined rules, even though users are free to develop and apply their own simulations and role-playing games.

Second Life is tapping with the issues of social, behavioral, economic science. Besides the socio-economical, ethical and behavioural issues that may arise, Second Life is also a communicative environment that has multiple potential uses in learning and teaching. In this environment people can work and interact in a realistic way, moving from passive to more active roles (Bainbridge, 2007). In Second Life educators and students as well, can create avatars and interact with each other, with objects and with the surrounding environment (Bowers, Ragas & Neely, 2009).

After the initial enthusiasm for using Second Life as an educational tool, criticism and skepticism about teaching with VLEs has emerged. These second thoughts have mainly focused on the lack of effective scenarios, events, activities, and role-playing practice in Second Life, while critics argue that these environments have a game-play use, rather than a pedagogical one (Schroeder, 2002). Undoubtedly, Second Life could play a supporting role within an educational setting; but even the most impressive technological virtual environment is educationally ineffective without the appropriate solid and interdisciplinary theoretical backgrounds.

In order to counter these arguments for Second Life, we argue that the teachers or other practitioners could use Second Life as a space to meet their students, create educational content and develop skills and capabilities. We suggest that teachers could use Second Life as a technological tool for applying educational scenarios, strategies, roles and activities and involving students in designing and assessing learning activities in this virtual environment.

According to Boekaerts and Corno (2005), researchers have been creative in designing assessment instruments that portray what self-regulated learners do, think, and feel when they are actively and constructively engaged in learning. These assessments range from observations of overt behavior, traces of mental events and processes, and keeping diaries.

Second Life can be useful instrument for not only developing, but also evaluating self-regulation skills, by providing opportunities for teachers to observe the students' behavior. This method can offer a rich data base of verbal and non-verbal behavior in relation to tasks and social interaction patterns for target subjects (Boekaerts & Corno, 2005), which can be subjected to statistical and content analyses. Moreover, it can capture specific processes of Self-Regulation, by examining aspects of student work or work samples, revealing the way the student regulated the learning process. This student work can be a serious evidence of students' metacognitive or motivation and volition strategies (SRL).

According to Montalvo and Torres (2004, p. 20), "on the one hand it has become necessary to use more complex designs (e.g., longitudinal designs), but on the other hand, we need to create and validate a greater number of methods and instruments of a qualitative nature, allowing researchers to investigate self-regulated learning as a dynamic and continuous process (event), which unfolds over time and in a specific context, and to overcome limitations associated with the exclusive use of self-reports for assessment". Therefore, it is necessary to move forward in the development of learner-centered teaching models within learning communities.

We argue that the use of Second Life is still in its early stages of use as an educational tool. However, it can be a promising dynamic and continuous process context for investigating self-regulated learning. Thus, we propose an educational scenario based on SRL Theory applied in Second Life.

The proposed scenario exploits the 3D environment of Second Life and aims at developing important 21st century skills, such as collaboration, team work, peer exchange, problem solving skills etc, in accordance with SRL Theory, in order to provide a framework for developing activities that would enhance self-regulation skills.

This scenario is described according to the Kobbe/Kaleidoscope framework, according to which, a scenario is composed by the individuals that participate in it, the activities they engage in, the roles they assume, the resources they make use of and the groups they form (Kobbe, 2005).

The Educational Scenario

We utilize a 3D environment in Second Life as a way of fostering collaboration and discussion among students, allowing interactions that can be captured and analyzed by means of log files. Second Life offers a variety of communication possibilities via chat (local chat: avatars can exchange messages which can be viewed by all avatars within a local distance - Instant Message for private communication), email and nonverbal avatar communication. This environment also supports presentations resources, such as Videos and Simulations, e-books, articles and assessment resources, such as inventories provided in Second Life, in order for trainers to keep a record of their work. This 3D environment has the ability to embody a variety of resources depending on the trainers' needs (new activities, exercises or tests).

The participants of the scenario should be an even number of at least 4 participants and a tutor, who can be grouped into at least two small groups, according to various criteria, such as former knowledge of the subject matter or the environments itself.

Based on the main features of the SRL, (Zimmerman, 1989; 1998) the self-regulated learning strategies that were used to design the scenario's activities are presented in Table 1.

Table1. Self Regulation Phases and Learning Strategies (Paraskeva, Mysirlaki & Choustoulakis, 2009)

Self Regulation Phase

Self-Regulated Learning Strategies

Forethought Phase

Intrinsic interest

Goal Setting


Keeping records and monitoring


Task analysis

Strategic planning

Rehearsing and memorizing

Self motivation

Discuss outcome expectations

Self-efficacy beliefs

Performance Phase

Rehearsing and memorizing


Keeping records and monitoring


Self - observation


Seeking social assistance

Self-reflection Phase




Self -Reaction

Strategic planning

Reflective Thinking

Based on these phases and strategies we propose a framework for self-regulation theory educational scenarios, presented in Fig.1.

Figure 1. Self-Regulation Scenarios Template (Paraskeva, Mysirlaki & Choustoulakis, 2009)

Educational Scenario's Application in Second Life

Based on the template which was described in the previous section, an educational scenario based the framework for promoting Self-Regulation Theory, was applied in Second Life to enhance situated experience in professional and career development (Vasileiou & Paraskeva, 2010)

The aim of our study was to test in a quasi experimental design the hypothesis that the teachers' engagement in professional development activities, such as learning and implementing the role-playing instructional technique, may increase significantly when the program is applied in a 3D virtual learning environment than in a face-to-face, classroom context. Consequently, in the virtual world of Second Life we developed a place suitable for learning the role-playing instruction and playing a case scenario from the E rhapsody of the epic poem Odyssey by Homer. Two groups of fifteen primary and secondary teacher educators each, the control and experimental group respectively, comprised our research sample. Based on qualitative and quantitative criteria we used interviews and questionnaires to assess the engagement level of the study participants before and after the intervention.

According to the self-regulated learning strategies described above, the sequence of the activities, which occur in each phase of the scenario and take place in Second Life (SL), is:

1. Forethought phase: The core of the 'Forethought' phase is the modeling procedure, in which the tutor presents a model of the solution that the participants can later use to solve their own problems. This modeling procedure aims at the internalization of the given problem and the desired outcome, where the participants can create short- and long-term goals of the learning experience, and create mental maps that can help them to use the modeled solution in the future. Next, the solution to the problem is described by the tutor, through processes of strategic planning, keeping records, monitoring, rehearsing and memorizing techniques. The last stage of this phase is self-motivation, including the discussing of the outcome expectation and the enhancement of students' self-efficacy beliefs. The application of the most important stages in Second Life is described below.

Intrinsic Interest: Initially, the goal is to increase the participants' intrinsic interest. Thus, the tutor initializes the didactic problem by presenting some picture, video or story that students can relate to. The participants view and discuss the picture, video or story in order to generalize a concept that introduces to the problem. Next, the moderator presents something to introduce the actual problem, and the whole class discusses the latter (Fig. 2).

In this stage of the experiment, the participants viewed a presentation in Second Life, containing the basic elements of role playing techniques.

Figure 2. Presentation of the Problem in SL

Team Division: The teams are divided in Second Life, by using random selection, color-based grouping techniques or by using scenarios for random selection and grouping. In the Second Life experiment, the participants' avatars were divided in groups with a color-based grouping technique (they chose among red, green and blue team) (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Team Division with Color-based Technique in SL

Problem Definition: The problem definition (Fig. 4) and the submission of the proposed solutions are products of collaboration in Second Life. The participants define the problem, set their goals and discuss the possible solutions in groups.

Figure 4. The participants discuss in groups to define the problem

Modeling: The demonstration/presentation of steps and methods for the resolution of problem are a basic step for modeling a procedure. In Second Life, a procedure is modeled by using presentation techniques (such as PowerPoint and video presentations) (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Presentation techniques in SL

2. Performance phase: In this phase the participants practice in teams what they have learned in the forethought phase and attempt to solve a problem by using the model provided. In this phase the participants can seek social assistance and create their own problems, they can swap the problems they have created and solve them.

Team work - Solving the problems: In this stage, each group studies the presentations and looks for resources (form of contacts-links and documents) in Second Life (Fig. 6-7).

Figure 6. Team Work in SL

Figure 7. The participants study the presentations in order to solve the problem

Peer Exchange: Second Life provides a variety of collaboration and peer-exchange activities, such as Local chatting (public conversation), Instant messaging (private conversation), Notecards (document exchange). In the experiment, the participants exchanged notecards in order to answer a question or comment on pair answer (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. The participants exchange Notecards in SL

Practice: The participants practice what they have learned in role playing activities. These activities can be observed and evaluated by the tutor and peers, in order to provide feedback to the participants. In Second Life, the participants had the chance to communicate, collaborate with their peers and observe their practice, during role playing (Fig. 9-11).

Figures 9-11. The participants practice in SL what they have learned in role playing activities

3. 'Self-Reflection' phase: Finally, all these programs follow a didactive process culminating in self-reflective practice (or metacognitive discussion), where students independently practice the acquired skills and strategies, they reflect on the learning process they have followed, they evaluate performance attained and strategy effectiveness, if needed they modify the perspective used, and they carry out adjustments in their social and physical environment in order to create a more favorable learning environment (Montalvo & Torres, 2004).

The first stage of this phase is self-evaluation, in which students assess their performance, adjust their strategies (self-reaction), and plan their strategies for future practice of the solution modeled.

One type of strategy that students can use to regulate their effort and persistence for academic tasks is the "environmental control" (Corno, 1993), which decreases the possibility of off-task behavior by reducing the probability of encountering a distraction or by reducing the intensity of distractions that do occur (Wolters, 2003). Moreover, the ability for emotion regulation incorporates the players' ability to monitor, evaluate, and change the occurrence, intensity, or duration of a particular emotional experience (Eisenberg et al., 2001; Thompson, 1994; Walden & Smith, 1997). Players in Second Life can practice this emotion regulation by shifting their attention (looking at something else), focusing their attention (thinking of something else), and avoiding particular situations (Rothbart, Ziaie, & O'Boyle, 1992; Thompson, 1994). 

Moreover, learners can adjust their strategies by creating and structuring their own favorable learning environments, by teleporting their avatar in a quiet place to avoid internal and environmental distractions (noises, classmates' interference, etc.), and eliminating or diminishing them, keeping their attention and their effort on the task being performed (Montalvo & Torres,2004).  This phase also includes self-monitoring and reflective thinking techniques, such as reflecting on the lesson procedure and relating the problems presented to real-world situations.

Self-Judgment: Evaluation in Second Life is based on scales of graded criteria (rubrics) and is a result of using SLOODLE, which is an Open Source project which integrates the multi-user virtual environment of Second Life with the Moodle learning-management system (Fig. 12-13).

Figure 12. Self-judgment by using rubrics in SL

Figure 13. Self-judgment by using SLOODLE in SL

Self-monitoring: In Second Life, the participants have the ability to observe their virtual representation (avatar), since the point of view of the camera is behind and above the avatars (Fig. 14). The learners can monitor their performance by keeping a log of aspects related to academic tasks (e.g., time used to complete them, to take notes etc.), since these activities facilitate generation of feedback that can guide efforts to achieve future goals (Montalvo & Torres, 2004). 

Figure 14. Self-monitoring in SL


Based on previous research on 21st century skills (Mysirlaki & Paraskeva, 2010; Paraskeva, Mysirlaki & Choustoulakis, 2009) and the impact of personal factors in enhancing human performance, such as self-regulation skills, we tried to answer the question "how can we enhance self regulated techniques in e-learning environments?". This paper presents the application of an educational scenario based on Self-Regulated Learning in Second Life, using this virtual world to enhance situated experience in professional and career development (especially for teachers). This paper proposes that the 3D learning environment of Second Life could be an effective and innovative educational environment for the development of self-regulation skills and 21st century skills (such as collaboration, engagement, etc).

This paper could offer additional support to more recent researches that have begun to explore the importance of 3D and gaming learning environments in training programs, in order to develop continuing professional programs especially at workplace and career environments for formal and informal education for teachers' continuing professional training programs (synchronous and asynchronous communication and training). For future studies we stress the need to explain how customization issues based on interdisciplinary approaches of computer science, educational and learning psychology and instructional design are essential and effective in educational practice. To this end, we propose this framework for further implementation and evaluation.