Evaluating Participation in an International Bilingual Virtual World Educational Intervention for Youth

Laura Beals, Marina Umaschi Bers

Abstract


This paper reports on an evaluation of participation in a complex, international, bilingual project called ClubZora. ClubZora was an eleven-month educational intervention in which the Zora virtual world was introduced to an international after-school community of youth spanning 11 countries and two languages, English and Spanish. Zora is a multi-user virtual environment that provides a safe space for youth. In Zora, users can create and populate a virtual city by making their own places and interactive creations, using 3D objects such as picture frames, movie screens, houses, interior decorations, message boards, and signs. Zora provides both a real-time chat system and a message-board system for communication. Each action performed by the participants in Zora is logged into a database and analyzed with a customized online log-parser. The log parser allows for easy exploration of population demographics and data related to software usage (i.e., logging on/off, conversations, object creation, etc.). In addition, a master registry of the objects created in Zora is contained within a file called a “prop dump,” which contains the date of creation, coordinates, owner, etc. of each object.

            This paper presents a case study of an evaluation of participation in this virtual world educational intervention. Through this case study, methods for determining participation will be explored. Using the data collected during the ClubZora project, this case study explores who used Zora and how, including statistical analysis of usage patterns in order to examine potential participation differences among demographic characteristics (i.e., gender, age, language, Clubhouse region, etc.). A discussion of the implications of the results as they pertain to development of the software and of the educational program supported by Zora is also presented.


Keywords


virtual world, evaluation, computer, technology, constructionism, youth, children

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