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Faculty Perceptions of Instruction in Collaborative Virtual Immersive Learning Environments in Higher Education

Barbara Janson, Johnson & Wales University


Use of 3D (three-dimensional) avatars in a synchronous virtual world for educational purposes has only been adopted for about a decade. Universities are offering synchronous, avatar-based virtual courses for credit - within 3D worlds (Luo & Kemp, 2008). Faculty and students immerse themselves, via avatars, in virtual worlds and communicate using text or voice (Steinkuehler & Squire, 2009). Faculty now find themselves planning instructional activities that require them to re-examine and redefine their roles, adjusting to new pedagogical models. Using synchronous, immersive, virtual learning environments requires a rethinking of underlying assumptions about faculty roles and structures of the learning platforms (Nahl, 2010). This field is so new that little has been written in the professional literature identifying factors that determine faculty acceptance of virtual, immersive instruction in a graduate level college environment. Grounded in an extensive review of the literature and researched by using the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis, 1985), this mixed-methods study surveyed graduate faculty’s perceptions of virtual immersive learning. A 5-point Likert-style survey was employed, using “purposeful sampling” (Creswell, 1998, p. 119). This electronic instrument was emailed to select graduate faculty (N = 58), who provide instruction within synchronous, virtual, immersive classrooms. Using Survey Monkey ©, the survey, entitled Survey of Behavioral Intention and Perceived Usefulness of Technology by Graduate Faculty, queried faculty perceptions with respect to aspects of the use of educational technology in online immersive situations. After the quantitative survey results were analyzed, the researcher interviewed faculty (N = 10) within the virtual worlds using text-chat, to explore and describe themes that emerged from the quantitative data. Findings suggest faculty perceive virtual world teaching improved their ability to provide their students with a valuable, unique learning environment. Faculty wanted a more involved role in strategic planning at their universities. Leaders of innovative teaching and learning platforms benefited from supportive learning communities. Faculty also perceived a need for more financial, technological, and leadership support. The results of this study may provide university administrators, and faculty, with insights into the perceptions of faculty who use virtual worlds and may guide the development of best practices in the affordances of these unique learning spaces.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Educational technology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Janson, Barbara, "Faculty Perceptions of Instruction in Collaborative Virtual Immersive Learning Environments in Higher Education" (2013). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3558390.