Hybridizing Real and Virtual Experiences – Inquiry-Based Learning Activities to Explore Surface Chemistry (2023)

by KC Wong, K. Brant Knutzen, Ignatius Ip, and PY Li

Abstract: Surface chemistry is a challenging realm for most students because of its abstract nature and numerous associated mathematical equations. Herein we report a set of dedicated sequential inquiry-based learning (IBL) activities enriched with virtual laboratory learning and hands-on instructions. The activities were intended to help students grasp abstract concepts and understand the mathematical equations related to surface chemistry. The activities included two methods for measuring surface tension: the capillary rise method and the drop weight method. In addition, students were guided to observe the adsorption phenomenon and critical micelle concentration (CMC). The activities were implemented in a second-year pharmaceutical chemistry course for pharmacy undergraduate students. Feedback from the students indicated that the activities could nurture their interest in the topics. Moreover, we have proven that hybridizing virtual learning and hands-on learning in IBL is viable and could offer positive effects on students’ learning. We advocate the use of virtual laboratories to support IBL activities in the post-pandemic era.

Published in the Journal of Chemical Education, August 2023


A Hybrid Model of Experiential Learning within the Social Virtual World of Second Life  (2019)

by K. Brant Knutzen

Abstract: This study examined how multi-user virtual worlds can enhance learning, by extending and refining a prior VR-based model to include two new constructs: virtual identity, and social constructivism. The fit of the model was analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM), and the results supported both the extension and the hypothesized refined model. Findings: VR features were found to indirectly impact on the learning outcomes, mediated by the perception of usability and the learning experience. The learning experience was measured by seven individual psychological factors: presence, virtual identity, motivation, cognitive benefits, agentic learning, social constructivism, and reflective thinking. These factors mediated the learning outcomes, measured by the perception of learning effectiveness and satisfaction, and may have a range of implications for the instructional design of learning activities using the virtual world. This research blends a technology acceptance model with the technology-mediated learning perspective to advance the development of a hybrid theoretical framework as a basis for future research into enhanced learning within a social virtual world.

Published in the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 12(2), September 2019


Virtual World Global Collaboration – An Educational Quest (2017)

by Valerie Hill and K. Brant Knutzen


Purpose: This research case study shares the partnership between librarians and educators to create a live digital literacy experience at The Quest (Camelot Project), a virtual world medieval simulation. The purpose of the partnership was to gain understanding of the learning elements addressed with a group of participants from across the globe, working at various skill levels, and interacting with an immersive virtual world simulation.

Design/methodology/approach: Using field notes, machinima, and interviews (Participatory Action Research), the study identifies learning elements within three contexts:  technological, pedagogical, and content.  Learners cycle toward intended learning outcomes in a virtual world treasure hunt game from the perspective of both designers and participants.

Findings: Findings of the case study illustrate the value of collaboration in a Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) environment through scaffolding of knowledge and skills in a virtual world.  Findings exemplify the experiential learning cycle within a virtual world for constructing learning, and support a proposed new theoretical framework of technology-mediated learning which may help educators in both design and implementation.

Originality: As virtual worlds and immersive learning opportunities continue to expand for learners and educators, this study shares the value of experiential learning from the perspective of both the teacher and the learner.  Socially constructing knowledge and acquiring skills across distance with a team of librarians and educators is an innovative example of Digital Game-Based Learning in an alternative reality setting.

Keywords: virtual worlds, immersive learning, Constructionism, role-play, serious games, global collaboration, simulations, Participatory Action Research, digital literacies, Game-Based Learning, Digital Game-Based Learning

Paper type:  Research paper

Published in the Information and Learning Science journal, vol:188, iss:9/10 
Special Issue: Using Participatory Methodologies for Conducting Literacy Activities


Designing the Self : the Transformation of the Relational Self-concept through Social Encounters in a Virtual Immersive Environment (2012)

by K. Brant Knutzen & David M. Kennedy

Abstract : This article describes the findings of a 3-month study on how social encounters mediated by an online Virtual Immersive Environment (VIE) impacted on the relational self-concept of adolescents. The study gathered data from two groups of students as they took an Introduction to Design and Programming class. Students in group 1 undertook course activities conducted in the Second Life VIE, where they envisioned themselves as college students five years in the future and developed representational avatars based on that idea. Students in group 2 undertook the same course activities in a different order, without the VIE component during the study period. Changes in self-concept were measured at the conclusion of the study period using the Relational Self-Concept Scale, a survey instrument that examines the impact that different social encounters within and around the school context have upon the formation of self-concept (Schott, G., & Bellin, W. (2001a). The relational self-concept scale: A context-specific self-report measure for adolescents.Adolescence, 36, 85–103.). The study found evidence that the VIE experience of group 1 had a significant impact on the students’ relational self-concept, specifically a positive change in how content they were with their social selves. This study provides evidence that the development of representational avatars and socializing in a virtual immersive environment can change how adolescents think about themselves in reality.

Published in the Interactive Learning Environments journal, Volume 20, Issue 3, 2012
Special Issue:  The Ethics of Educational Interventions in Popular Digital Technologies

Full text also available on the HKU Scholars Hub.


The Global Classroom Project – Learning a Second Language in a Virtual Environment (2012)

by K. Brant Knutzen & David M. Kennedy

Abstract : This paper reports the progress of a pilot project exploring the integration of a collaborative virtual learning environment (Second Life) with the instruction of English courses at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. An educational partnership was developed with two TESOL teacher-training courses at Texas A&M University in the US.  The project enrolled over 200 participants, with about half from each participating university. Coordination of online activities was done using the Moodle learning management system.

A large non-traditional language learning facility was developed in the Second Life virtual environment in the style of a 1950’s American diner on a private island, complete with Cadillac booths, traditional diner booths and tables, and outdoor campfire settings to
facilitate conversational groupings. Both IM typed chat and VOIP voice interactions were explored inside the virtual environment. Student behavior observed during the study indicates the conditions which result in the most productive interactions, and also highlights several key problem areas which must be addressed before successful
interactions can be achieved. This paper presents a process which has been developed and trialed, and the plans at Lingnan University to adopt it on a wider scale to support the development of language skills.

Published in the Electronic Journal of e-Learning, Vol 10, Issue 1, pg 90-106, March 2012
Conference paper also posted on the HKU Scholars Hub