Second Life, SL, engagement, flow, webquest, vwquest, learning, performance, achievement


Virtual Worlds have become an attractive platform for work, play, and learning. Businesses, including the public sector and academia, are increasingly investing their time, money, and attention to understanding the value of virtual worlds as a productivity tool. For example, educators are leading the way with research in Second Life, one of the more popular virtual worlds, as a potentially powerful medium for creating and delivering instruction. Still, little is empirically known about the value of virtual worlds as viable learning platforms. This study examined the instructional potential of Second Life for creating engaging activities, and to investigate the relationship between Second Life and learning in educational settings. It was hypothesized that a positive relationship exists between a learner's level of engagement and achievement. Achievement was assessed as a learner's level of recognition and recall of factual content. It was also hypothesized that a positive relationship exists between a learner's level of engagement and their performance. Performance was assessed as a learner's level of participation, initiative and effort. Additionally, exploratory research was conducted to examine the factors that contributed to both performance and engagement. Lastly, the relationship between other demographic factors of age, Second Life skill level, and ethnicity, with engagement was explored. This research used an empirically tested unit of web-based instructional framework known as a WebQuest. A 3D version, named VWQuest, was created in Second Life. One hundred volunteers completed participation. Using role play, participants participated in a quest for information. While exploring, participants were asked to take photos as evidence of their experiences. Upon completion, they took a knowledge check multiple-choice quiz, and a survey which measured their perceived level of engagement during the activity. Regression analysis indicated no positive correlation between a participant's level of engagement and his or her achievement. However, a positive correlation was found between participants' level of engagement and their performance. Second Life skill level was significantly correlated to performance, and engagement was found to be a mediator between skill level and performance. Most significantly and unexpectedly, participants' performance varied so greatly, the performance rubric was revised four times before it comprehensively captured the diverse range of performances. This evidence suggests that open-ended and creative opportunities to perform yield levels of creativity, engagement, and innovation within immersive platforms, unexpected and far beyond that of traditional instructional settings. Investigating flow dimensions, engagement elements of user control and loss of time were found to be the most significant contributors to performance, and accounted for the greatest amount of variance in explaining performance. Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the flow factors of defined goals and feedback loaded the highest, suggesting a strong relationship between the two factors. Demographic analysis revealed no significant mean difference between gender and engagement, or between age and engagement. The majority of participants were between 40 and 50 and was instructors or educators, not students. For those interested in understanding appropriate and effective instruction in complex, immersive environments, this study brings together new important implications for all of them. Instructional designers may benefit from these findings in their creation of instructional content; instructors may benefit in their curriculum design and teaching methods; and researchers may understand specific facets with instructional potential--engagement factors, technologies, and instructional frameworks--worthy of further investigation.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date



Hirumi, Atsusi


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education


Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership

Degree Program









Release Date

February 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Education Commons