3D virtual learning in counselor education: Using Second Life in counselor skill development

Victoria Lynn Walker

Abstract


This article will present the process and the curricular and pedagogical lessons learned from adding a 3D virtual learning environment to an online course in a distance and hybrid education master’s degree program. Based on student surveys, course evaluations, and faculty interviews, the author will summarize attitudes and expectations from the varied stakeholders and offer practical recommendations on the design and delivery of an effective virtual world learning environment in an online course.

The author is involved in developing 3D virtual learning environments and integrating their use in graduate level counseling courses in traditional, blended, and online master’s programs. In the fall of 2007, the author began the process of incorporating the virtual world Second Life into an online counseling skills and techniques course in the Human Services Counseling Program at Regent University. The course objectives consisted of teaching graduate level students expertise such as clinical counseling skills and techniques. One of the critical competencies, the student’s ability to demonstrate the basic counseling skills needed to be an effective counselor including attending, listening, empathy, warmth, and respect, was very difficult to teach and evaluate from a distance. In the past, program instructors have taught online and blended courses with the asynchronous learning environment Blackboard and the synchronous technologies, Skype and Instant Messenger. With the use of new learning environments, such as 3D virtual learning environments, the author hoped to provide the instructors and students with an environment more conducive to developing effective counseling skills. The author implemented the virtual learning environment – a simulated counseling facility and tested the virtual counseling facility’s use as an innovative learning environment for simulation of student counseling sessions. This article will discuss the author’s personal experiences as well as the empirical research collected during this case study. Given the potential for significant growth in the use of virtual learning objects, this article should provide useful information for instructors and administrators considering virtual environments as a means of teaching practical skills at a distance in online programs.

Keywords


3D virtual learning; online distance education; counselor education; research study.

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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org