IES-funded researchers Chris Dede and Shari Metcalf of Harvard University received the First Place award in the Interactive and Immersive Learning Category at the 2011 Association for Educational Communications and Technology conference. The award was for EcoMUVE, a science intervention funded by a development grant under IES's Education Technology research grants program.
The goal of the EcoMUVE project is to help students develop a deeper understanding of ecosystems and causal patterns with a curriculum that uses Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs). MUVEs are 3D virtual worlds that look and feel like video games. They are accessed via computers to recreate authentic ecological settings in which students explore and collect information. Students work individually at their computers and collaborate in teams within the virtual world. The immersive interface allows students to learn science by exploring and solving problems in realistic envoronments. The intervention includes two computer based modules and an inquiry-based ecosystems curriculum. Click here for a video demonstration of EcoMUVE.
The 2008 grant is in its final year and the project team is currently testing the feasibility and promise of the intervention to support student learning in 10 different classrooms. Results from preliminary research carried out during the project period demonstrated that students made significant gains on pre-post content survey questions. For example, students made gains on questions related to interactions between biotic and abiotic factors, the processes of photosynthesis and respiration, and the role of decomposition in gas exchange. Analyses also revealed that students demonstrated higher self-efficacy in scientific reasoning, greater understanding of what scientists do, and increased interest in and appreciation for ecosystem science. Additionally, a study comparing students who used EcoMUVE before or after a field trip to a local pond found that students who used EcoMUVE before visiting the pond made stronger scientific explanations of measurements they took at the pond.