Vol. 32 No. 2 (2017)
Research Articles

Virtual worlds and gamification to increase integration of international students in higher education: an inclusive design approach

Bo Zhang
SMARTlab & The Inclusive Design Research Centre, School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Bio
Nigel Robb
SMARTlab & The Inclusive Design Research Centre, School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Bio
Joe Eyerman
RTI International Center for Security, Defense and Safety, North Carolina, United States
Bio
Lizbeth Goodman
SMARTlab & The Inclusive Design Research Centre, School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Bio
Published December 16, 2017
Keywords
  • inclusive design,
  • virtual worlds,
  • e-learning,
  • educational technology,
  • gamification,
  • internationalisation
  • ...More
    Less
How to Cite
Zhang, B., Robb, N., Eyerman, J., & Goodman, L. (2017). Virtual worlds and gamification to increase integration of international students in higher education: an inclusive design approach. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education / Revue Internationale Du E-Learning Et La Formation à Distance, 32(2). Retrieved from https://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/1057

Abstract

In response to the growing trend of internationalisation in education, it is important to consider approaches to help international students integrate into their new settings. One possible approach involves the use of e-Learning tools, such as virtual worlds and gamification. To maximise the potential effectiveness of such tools, it may be beneficial to involve international students in a technological co-design process. This paper develops an inclusive design process based on the definitions of Inclusive Design outlined by the SMARTlab and IDRC teams, as part of a co-design specification in practice, gathering specific information about the needs of the Chinese students in Ireland at UCD through a questionnaire and an empathy-driven design approach.  From the responses of the questionnaire, we found that students would find many features that virtual environments can provide beneficial (e.g., 3D campus tours and virtual lectures). We also found that collaborative, social activities were a more popular way to potentially increase language and cultural understanding than structured courses. Finally, we learned that the incorporation of game-like elements in virtual environments requires careful planning: while this may be effective to increase user engagement with information, users do not want to have to be successful in games to gain access to essential resources or information. Based on these specific needs provided by Chinese students themselves, a virtual campus (VC) is created which based on a unique virtual platform-Terf®.

Résumé

En réponse à la tendance croissante d’internationalisation dans l’éducation, il est important d’envisager des approches permettant d’aider les étudiants internationaux à intégrer leurs nouveaux environnements. Une approche possible implique l’usage d’outils e-learning tels que les mondes virtuels et la ludification. Afin de maximiser l’efficacité potentielle de tels outils, il peut être favorable d’impliquer les étudiants internationaux dans un processus de co-conception technologique. Cet article développe un processus de conception inclusive basée sur les définitions formulées par les équipes du SMARTlab et de l’IDRC et les exigences empiriques de co-conception, définies en rassemblant des informations spécifiques concernant les besoins des étudiants chinois en Irlande, à l’Université Collège Dublin (UCD), par le biais d’un questionnaire et d’une approche de la conception guidée par l’empathie. Les réponses au questionnaire nous ont permis de faire ressortir que les étudiants considèreraient comme bénéfiques plusieurs des caractéristiques envisageables des environnements virtuels (comme, par exemple, la visite du campus en 3D et les cours virtuels). Nous avons aussi vu que les activités collaboratives et sociales constitueraient un moyen plus populaire que les cours structurés en vue d’accroitre potentiellement la compréhension linguistique et culturelle.  Finalement, nous avons appris que l’intégration d’éléments de type « jeu » dans des environnements virtuels requiert une planification soignée : tandis que cela peut être efficace pour augmenter l’intérêt de l’usager pour l’information, les usagers ne veulent pas avoir à réussir aux jeux afin de pouvoir accéder aux ressources ou informations essentielles. C’est en se fondant que ces besoins spécifiques énoncés par les étudiants chinois eux-mêmes qu’un campus virtuel (CV) a été créé sur une plateforme virtuelle appelée Terf® spécialement construite à cette fin.

Mots-clés: design inclusive; mondes virtuels; e-learning technologie educative; gamification; internationalisation

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