Research Suggests Students Learn More When Collaborating in Virtual Reality Games
With the help of a virtual
reality game their professor created, students at Cornell
University have gathered evidence that interacting with others in a
game-playing atmosphere may help them learn more.
Using a language-learning
game, "Crystalize," created by Cornell
Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Erik Andersen, a group of students conducted a study with two different
which players, using an avatar, take a virtual tour of Japan.
the game, which is intended to
help students learn Japanese — although it is designed to teach other
as well — players go on "quests" to learn new words by watching game
talk to each other. For instance, as one character walks away, another
left behind says, "Sayonara." The hope is that the player understands
means "goodbye." At that point, the player can drag the word from a
balloon into an inventory of terms that can later be used to construct
players collect points
by completing quests, as is so often the case in role-playing games.
the research project led by
Ph.D. candidate Gabriel Culbertson, 48 students were recruited to play
versions of the game. In one group, students were connected via a chat
interface with another player who could, if they wanted, offer advice
on how to
play. The second group played a version of the game in which they were
required to collaborate on quests.
research group found the
students in the second so-called “high-interdependence” group spent
communicating and, as a consequence, learned more words.
research then expanded to a
larger group of 186 Reddit users who were learning Japanese. After
gameplay logs, interviews and Reddit posts, they found that those who
most time engaged in the game learned more new words and phrases.
Cornell research team presented
its research results at the Association for Computing Machinery
Human-Computer Interaction in May in San Jose, CA.
game's designers plan to look
for ways to create longer-term engagement with the game since learning
language is a long-term process.
Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.