Online Teacher Candidates' Experiences in a Virtual World for the Preparation to Teach Middle School
Miller, Nicole C.
CommitteeThompson, Nicole L.
Hare, Rufus D.
Franz, Dana P.
Increasingly virtual worlds are being used to provide new and varied learning opportunities by various educational organizations such as universities, K-12 schools, and museums (Dembo, 2008; Ketelhut, Nelson, Clarke, & Dede, 2010; The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time, 2008). Simultaneously teacher preparation programs are increasingly being offered online (Minsun & Yoon-Joo, 2009; Saltmarsh & Sutherland-Smith, 2010; Sawchuk, 2009; Schrum, Burbank, & Capps, 2007). However, these more traditional online asynchronous learning experiences are often more challenging in several ways: (a) they require greater self-regulation (Artino & Stephens, 2009; Bol & Garner, 2011), (b) they have been reported as sometimes less effective than face-to-face learning (Hudson, 2006; C. L. Peterson & Bond, 2004; Saltmarsh & Sutherland-Smith, 2010; Zirkle, 2002); and (c) they have sometimes been perceived as less effective (E. I. Allen & Seaman, 2011; Huss, 2007). Given the potential of virtual worlds for teaching and learning, it was believed that the use of a virtual world for middle level teacher preparation might provide a solution to some of these reported challenges of online learning. The purpose of this study was to describe and examine the experiences of online middle level teacher candidates using a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) for teacher preparation. Case study methodology was employed, using multiple data sources including interviews, surveys, observations, snapshots, course artifacts, and the primary researcher’s journal. All data were coded and reviewed iteratively to inductively deduce the nature of the participants’ experiences. The data indicate middle level teacher preparation in the MUVE was more supportive and engaging than traditional online-learning experience, and was useful for learning about middle level education. Though the participants found the experiences to be positive, distractions including personal and technical issues played a role. This study offers insights on the use and implementation of MUVEs in online middle level teacher preparation.