Research Publications

Selected Research Publications and Presentations

2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

Selected Publications and Presentations from 2007

Dieterle, E., & Clarke, J. (in press). Multi-user virtual environments for teaching and learning. In M. Pagani (Ed.), Encyclopedia of multimedia technology and networking (2nd ed). Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

Abstract: Although MUVEs are commonplace to gamers, the affordances of this interface are rarely utilized for substantive teaching and learning. In this article we discuss how MUVEs can be used to support the situated and distributed nature of cognition within an immersive, psychosocial context, using River City as an informative case study.


Ketelhut, D. J., Dede, C., Clarke, J., Nelson, B., & Bowman, C. (in press). Studying situated learning in a multi-user virtual environment. In E. Baker, J. Dickieson, W. Wulfeck & H. O'Neil (Eds.), Assessment of problem solving using simulations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Nelson, B., Ketelhut, D. J., Clarke, J., Dieterle, E., Dede, C., & Erlandson, B. (in press). Robust design strategies for scaling educational innovations: The River City MUVE case study. In B. E. Shelton & D. A. Wiley (Eds.), The educational design and use of computer simulation games . Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Press.


Clarke, J. (2007). Trajectories of participation: A pilot study of students' behaviors in a multiuser, virtual environment. Poster presented at the 2007 American Educational Research Association Conference, Chicago, IL.


Clarke, J., Ketelhut, D., Nelson, B., Erlandson, B., Dieterle, E., & Dede, C. (2007). Investigating students' behaviors, patterns, and learning in a multi-user virtual environment designed around inquiry. Paper presented at the 2007 American Educational Research Association Conference, Chicago, IL.


Ketelhut, D. J. (2007). The impact of student self-efficacy on scientific inquiry skills: An exploratory investigation in River City, a multi-user virtual environment. The Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16 (1), 99–111.

Abstract: This exploratory study investigated data-gathering behaviors exhibited by 100 seventh-grade students as they participated in a scientific inquiry-based curriculum project delivered by a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE). This research examined the relationship between students’ self-efficacy on entry into the authentic scientific activity and the longitudinal data-gathering behaviors they employed while engaged in that process. Three waves of student behavior data were gathered from a server-side database that recorded all student activity in the MUVE; these data were analyzed using individual growth modeling. The study found that self-efficacy correlated with the number of data-gathering behaviors in which students initially engaged, with high self-efficacy students engaging in more data gathering than students with low self-efficacy. Also, the impact of student self-efficacy on rate of change in data gathering behavior differed by gender. However, by the end of their time in the MUVE, initial student self-efficacy no longer correlated with data gathering behaviors. In addition, students’ level of self-efficacy did not affect how many different sources from which they chose to gather data. These results suggest that embedding science inquiry curricula in novel platforms like a MUVE might act as a catalyst for change in students’ self-efficacy and learning processes.


Nelson, B. (2007). Exploring the use of individualized, reflective guidance in an educational multi-user virtual environment. The Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16 (1) 83–97.

Abstract: This study examines the patterns of use and potential impact of individualized, reflective guidance in an educational Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE). A guidance system embedded within a MUVE-based scientific inquiry curriculum was implemented with a sample of middle school students in an exploratory study investigating (a) whether access to the guidance system was associated with improved learning, (b) whether students viewing more guidance messages saw greater improvement on content tests than those viewing less, and (c) whether there were any differences in guidance use among boys and girls. Initial experimental findings showed that basic access to individualized guidance used with a MUVE had no measurable impact on learning. However, post-hoc exploratory analyses indicated that increased use of the system among those with access to it was positively associated with content test score gains. In addition, differences were found in overall learning outcomes by gender and in patterns of guidance use by boys and girls, with girls outperforming boys across a spectrum of guidance system use. Based on these exploratory findings, the paper suggests design guidelines for the development of guidance systems embedded in MUVEs and outlines directions for further research.


Nelson, B., & Erlandson, B. (2007). Multimedia design principles for learning in multiuser virtual environments. Paper presented at the 2007 American Educational Research Association Conference, Chicago, IL.


Nelson, B., Ketelhut, D., Clarke, J., Dieterle, E., Dede, C., & Erlandson, B. (2007). Robust design strategies for scaling educational innovations: The River City MUVE case study. Paper presented at the 2007 American Educational Research Association Conference, Chicago, IL.

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  Selected Publications and Presentations from 2006

Clarke, J., & Dede, C. (2006). Robust designs for scalability. Paper presented at the AECT Research Symposium, Bloomington, IN.

Abstract: One-size-fits-all educational innovations do not work because they ignore contextual factors that determine an intervention’s efficacy in a particular local situation. Identifying variables within the intervention’s setting that represent important conditions for success and summarizing the extent to which the impact of the intervention is attenuated by variation in them can provide prospective adopters of the innovation a better sense of what level of effectiveness they are likely to enjoy in their own particular circumstances. This study presents a research framework on how to conduct such an analysis and how to design educational innovations for scalability through enhancing their adaptability for effective usage in a wide variety of settings. The River City MUVE, a technology-based curriculum designed to enhance engagement and learning in middle school science, is presented as a case study.


Clarke, J., Dede, C., Ketelhut, D. J., & Nelson, B. (2006). A design-based research strategy to promote scalability for educational innovations. Educational Technology, 46 (3), 27–36.

Abstract : This article offers insights into how the design of innovations can enhance their “scalability”: the ability to adapt an innovation to effective usage in a wide variety of contexts, including settings where major conditions for success are absent or attenuated. We are implementing the River City MUVE curriculum, a technology-based innovation designed to enhance engagement and learning in middle school science, in a range of educational contexts. Based on our studies of these scaling up activities, we offer examples of design strategies for scalability and describe our plan to develop a “scalability index.”


Clarke, J., Dede, C., Ketelhut, D. J., Nelson, B., & Bowman, C. (2006). Multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) as research tools to assess student learning. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.


Galas, C., & Ketelhut, D. J. (2006). River City, the MUVE. Learning and Leading with Technology, 33 (7), 31–32.

Abstract : River City is an educational application of multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs). It uses simulation to immerse students in a participatory virtual reality involving interactive museum exhibits in a historical setting. More than 3,000 grade 5-12 students have experienced River City so far, and preliminary findings reveal that students using the application engaged in scientific inquiry and developed 21st-century skills in virtual communication and expression. The use of River City by sixth-grade students in 2004 at Seeds University Elementary School, Los Angeles (the laboratory school for the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies) is provided.


Ketelhut, D. J. (2006). Assessing scientific and technological self-efficacy: A measurement pilot. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Abstract : The purpose of this study was to develop a specific measure of self-efficacy in science inquiry and technology for middle school students. The initial survey of 61 items was piloted online first with a sample of 100 students. Revisions were made based on reliability and validity evidence, using Cronbach's alpha, Principal Component Analysis and correlational evidence. Two subscales of the survey were then implemented with over 2000 students participating in a technology in science research project. The final version of the survey consists of six independent sections on self-efficacy in science inquiry and technology (science inquiry, using the Internet to find information, general computer usage, synchronous chat use, videogaming and computer gaming).


Ketelhut, D. J., & Dede, C. (2006). Assessing inquiry learning. Paper presented at the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, San Francisco, CA.

Abstract : In this paper, we provide an overview of the design of an inquiry-based curriculum project, and then offer a comparative analysis of the outcomes of two methods for assessing student understanding of the inquiry process. Our findings indicate that the complex nature of scientific inquiry is better captured using an alternative method of assessment in addition to a more traditional multiple-choice test.


Ketelhut, D. J., Dede, C., Clarke, J., & Nelson, B. (2006). A multi-user virtual environment for building higher order inquiry skills in science. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Abstract : This National Science Foundation funded study is investigating novel pedagogies for helping teachers infuse inquiry into a standards-based science curriculum. Using a Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) as a pedagogical vehicle, teams of middle school students are asked to collaboratively solve a simulated 19th century city's problems with illness, through interaction with each others' “avatars”, digital artifacts, tacit clues, and computer-based “agents” acting as mentors and colleagues in a virtual community of practice. This paper describes the results from the three implementations in 2004 with approximately 2000 students from geographical diverse urban areas. Results indicate that students do conduct inquiry and are motivated by that process. However, results from assessments vary depending on assessment strategy employed.


Ketelhut, D. J., Nelson, B., Dede, C., & Clarke, J. (2006). Inquiry learning in multi-user virtual environments. Paper presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Francisco, CA.

Abstract : In this paper, we provide an overview of the design of an NSF-funded Multi-User Virtual Environment science curriculum project focusing on the creation of virtual experimentation methods and tools that go beyond a ‘canned lab' approach to concentrate on inquiry, using novel pedagogies to help low-performing students master complex skills. We present findings from students and teachers on the effectiveness of these methods, tools, and virtual contexts in creating an experimental learning environment authentic to what scientists experience in their work.

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Selected Publications and Presentations from 2005

Clarke, J., & Dede, C. (2005). Making learning meaningful: An exploratory study of using multi-user environments (MUVEs) in middle school science. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, Montreal, Canada.

Abstract : Many researchers are exploring the types of learning that occur in informal out-of school technology use (such as videogame play), yet the content of these environments tends not to align to national standards for academic content. This paper presents research on how a multiuser virtual environment centered on content related to national standards and assessments in biology and ecology offers new types of immersive learning for engaging grades 7 and 8 students in learning science.


Dede, C., Clarke, J., Ketelhut, D. J., Nelson, B., & Bowman, C. (2005). Fostering motivation, learning, and transfer in multi-user virtual environments. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, Montreal, Canada.


Dede, C., Ketelhut, D. J., Clarke, J., Nelson, B., & Bowman, C. (2005). Students' motivation and learning of science in a multi-user virtual environment. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, Montreal, Canada.

Abstract : This NSF-funded project utilizes graphical multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) as a vehicle to study (1) classroom-based situated learning and (2) the ways in which virtual environments may aid the transfer of learning from classroom contexts into real world settings. In the project's River City curriculum, teams of middle school students are asked to collaboratively solve a simulated 19th century city's problems with illness, through interaction with each others' “avatars,” digital artifacts, tacit visual and auditory clues, and computer-based “agents” acting as mentors and colleagues in a virtual community of practice. In this paper, we provide an overview of results from a large-scale implementation of the River City environment and curriculum in Spring 2004. Our findings show that students and teachers were highly engaged, that student attendance improved, that disruptive behavior dropped, and that interesting patterns are emerging about which students do best under our various pedagogical conditions.


Ketelhut, D. J., Clarke, J., Dede, C., Nelson, B., & Bowman, C. (2005). Inquiry teaching for depth and coverage via multi-user virtual environments. Paper presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Dallas, TX.

Abstract : This National Science Foundation funded study is investigating novel pedagogies for helping teachers infuse inquiry into a standards-based science curriculum. Using a Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) as a pedagogical vehicle, teams of middle school students are asked to collaboratively solve a simulated 19th century city's problems with illness, through interaction with each others' “avatars”, digital artifacts, tacit clues, and computer-based “agents” acting as mentors and colleagues in a virtual community of practice. This paper describes the results from the first of three implementations in 2004 with more than 1000 students from geographical diverse urban areas. Results indicate that our curriculum is motivating and improves content knowledge and inquiry skills as compared to a similar paper-based curriculum.


Nelson, B., Ketelhut, D. J., Clarke, J., Bowman, C., & Dede, C. (2005). Design-based research strategies for developing a scientific inquiry curriculum in a multi-user virtual environment. Educational Technology, 45 (1), 21–27.

Abstract : This National Science Foundation funded project is studying graphical multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) to investigate whether using this interactive medium in classroom settings can simulate real world experimentation and can provide students with engaging, meaningful learning experiences that enhance scientific literacy. In the project's River City curriculum, teams of middle school students are asked to collaboratively solve a digital 19th century city's problems with illness, through interaction with digital artifacts, tacit clues, and computer-based ‘agents' acting as mentors and colleagues in a virtual community of practice. This paper describes the design-based research strategy by which we are currently extending an educational MUVE environment and curriculum. Through several iterations of design-based research, we have refined our curriculum, the MUVE environment, and the theories underlying our design.

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Selected Publications and Presentations from 2004

Dede, C., Ketelhut, D. J., & Nelson, B. (2004). Design-based research on gender, class, race, and ethnicity in a multi-user virtual environment. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, San Diego, CA.

Abstract : This National Science Foundation funded project utilizes graphical multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) as a vehicle to study (1) classroom based situated learning and (2) the ways in which virtual environments may aid the transfer of learning from classroom contexts into real world settings. In the project's River City curriculum, teams of middle school students are asked to collaboratively solve a simulated 19th century city's problems with illness, through interaction with each others' ‘avatars', digital artifacts, tacit clues, and computer-based ‘agents' acting as mentors and colleagues in a virtual community of practice. This paper describes the impact of this intervention on subpopulations of students. In implementations in several cities, we have seen no gender or racial differences in student success.


Dede, C., Nelson, B., Ketelhut, D. J., Clarke, J., & Bowman, C. (2004). Design-based research strategies for studying situated learning in a multi-user virtual environment. Paper presented at the International Conference on Learning Sciences, Mahweh, NJ.

Abstract : This National Science Foundation funded project utilizes graphical multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) as a vehicle to study (1) classroom-based situated learning and (2) the ways in which virtual environments may aid the transfer of learning from classroom contexts into real world settings. In the project's River City curriculum, teams of middle school students are asked to collaboratively solve a simulated 19th century city's problems with illness, through interaction with each others' ‘avatars', digital artifacts, tacit clues, and computer-based ‘agents' acting as mentors and colleagues in a virtual community of practice. This paper describes the design-based research strategy by which we are currently extending an educational MUVE environment and curriculum developed with prior NSF funding. We are implementing a series of studies to determine if such virtual environments can sufficiently replicate authentic contexts and multi-leveled communities of practice to provide students with classroom experiences in situated learning.

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Selected Publications and Presentations from 2003

Dede, C. (2003). Multi-user virtual environments. Educause Review, 38(3), 60–61.

Abstract : Discusses the use of multi-user environments (MUVE) for learning. Complementary interfaces that will shape how people learn with computers and telecommunications. Article includes sample situation which gives a view into the future of MUVE for learning and advantages of MUVE based from an experiment.


Dede, C., & Ketelhut, D. J. (2003). Designing for motivation and usability in a museum-based multi-user virtual environment. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, Chicago, IL.

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Selected Publications and Presentations from 2002

Dede, C., Ketelhut, D. J., & Ruess, K. (2002). Motivation, usability, and learning outcomes in a prototype museum-based multi-user virtual environment. In P. Bell, R. Stevens & T. Satwicz (Eds.), Keeping learning complex: The proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 9980464, 0296001, 0202543, 0310188, and 0532446. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.