WoW in Education: A MOOC Adventure

My Orc character dances with fellow EDU orcs at the end of the evening on Day 1 of my WOW experience. Good to have friends, in any world.

The VWBPE MOOC took me into WoW last week.  It was a bit of a learning curve, but  my Virtual World (SL, RG, Opensim) experience did give me some frame of reference, particularly with basic movement and communication skills.   My ugly little avatar was able to terminate some doubly ugly creatures and move up to level 2 (83 to go).  On the first day communication was limited to text chat so my colleagues and I logged onto Second life and used the voice chat there while we experienced WoW and explored areas completely new to me.  The second day of my participation, MOOC participants got instructions for using Ventrilo for using voice, the ability to verbally request assistance and receive coaching along the way made a big difference.

Second Life (on the left) provided voice chat while our MOOC activity unfolded in WOW (right screen).

Having been skeptical of the use of any games that incorporate warfare for teaching, I was surprised with the amount of non-violent interaction.  Much of it was learning the basics of the user interface and some rudimentary information about the game itself, much too complex to master in a few hours.  What became important to me was what was going on in my head, what I had to do and think about in order to make progress.  My online colleagues, some of whom have extensive experience in the field of psychology and neurobiology, discussed their use of this environment in teaching explaining that interactions their students experience in this environment creates meaningful cognitive change.  Teachers can structure  activities to influence the change towards particular objectives.

Receiving instructions upon arrival at WoW. Anxious to progress, I learned about myself, others, and the group as a whole.

The group, including individuals with significant MMORPG experience and some with no experience,  had the opportunity to meet up with a group of WoW educators, members of the Cognitive Dissonance Guild.  The group has been exploring this platform since 2007 and welcomes interested teachers from both the K-12 and higher education arena.  A member of the Cognitive Dissonance Guild who joined us one evening currently uses WOW with middle school students (WoW in School), reporting positive changes in both behavior and academic achievement.  Students learn concepts in multiple areas including mathematics, economics and mythology.  Communication and collaboration are a must.

This graphically rich and engaging environment provides an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills and an understanding of human dynamics.  I cannot help but wonder about the potential for the teaching of Leadership skills.  Much of a Leadership program I went through, both in a higher education setting and in my workplace, required the study of leadership theory.  Though this academic study is important it fails to address application of theory.  Instruction of the application of skills typically relies on limited internships and somewhat contrived role-play in a classroom setting.  Though there is value in these, perhaps the complexity of a MMORPG like WoW would more effectively advance the application of leadership theory.

My week in WoW was eye-opening, intellectually stimulating, and fun.  I now have more informed questions regarding the use of MMORPGs in education and will make an active effort to find the answers.

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