Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 52, No. 3, 254–264, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study investigated the acceptance of virtual worlds as a learning space. In this study, the effect of perceived usefulness (PU), ease of use and perceived enjoyment on the behavioural intention (BI) of students to use virtual worlds, as well as the relationship among the variables were examined.
This research study involved 46 third-year pre-service teachers (12 female and 34 male) from the Department of Computer Education and Instructional Technology at Middle East Technical University in Turkey.
This study took advantage of the Second Life METU Campus. Students were involved in both synchronous and asynchronous activities during a one-semester teaching methods course on the virtual campus.
At the beginning of the study, students completed a background questionnaire. Then, they were introduced to Second Life with some basic information about movement and communication. Participants were divided into two sections: 26 students formed each section, which was further divided into small groups of three or four. There were 12 groups in total, six groups in each section. Groups researched the theory of the technique and implemented it during role-playing sessions in virtual classrooms.
At the end of the study, students completed a questionnaire about their perceptions and experiences in Second Life.
The findings of the study revealed three major points: (1) perceived usefulness, ease of use and perceived enjoyment were predictors of students’ BIs toward using virtual worlds. (2) Perceived enjoyment was a significant predictor for PU and PU and perceived ease of use (PEOU). (3) Perceived ease of use was a significant predictor for PU.
Virtual worlds: usefulness
The findings of this study revealed that, of the three factors, PU was the best predictor of students’ BIs for using virtual worlds. Namely, students who perceived the usefulness of the system had more intentions to use virtual worlds. It can be concluded that the students perceived this environment as utilitarian and focused on the usefulness of the experience.
Virtual worlds: enjoyment
The findings of this study revealed that PE was the second most important predictor of students’ BIs to use virtual worlds. This finding suggests that students who perceive a virtual world as enjoyable are more eager to use it in the future. It can be concluded that students also perceived the virtual world as hedonic, so their enjoyment was important.
In terms of the relationship of PE to the other factors, findings revealed that PE is a significant predictor for both PU and ease of use. First, it can be concluded that if students find virtual worlds enjoyable, it contributes to their perception of the environment as useful for learning. As confirmed in previous research, the intrinsic motivation variable, PE, increased the extrinsic motivation variable, PU. A virtual world provides edutainment, where students enjoy the learning activities and see educational value.
Virtual worlds: ease of use
Findings of this study also showed that PEOU influenced BI, though less than the other two predictors. This finding supports the hedonic nature of virtual worlds in that if a system has hedonic components, PEOU directly affects intentions. This finding indicates that providing support to help familiarise students with virtual worlds is important. Furthermore, findings of this study revealed that PEOU was a significant predictor of PU. It is likely that when students found the system easy to use, they perceived that the system would be useful and contribute to performance and learning. As other researchers have suggested, PEOU, as an intrinsic motivation variable, seemed to affect PU. This finding confirmed the indirect effect of PEOU on BI through PU.
The findings from this study highlight important issues related to acceptance and adoption of virtual worlds. First, the results contribute to the literature by defining virtual worlds as a mixed system with both utilitarian and hedonic value. Virtual worlds can focus on the productive use of a system to increase learning as well as the prolonged use to provide fun and enjoyment. The authors suggest that instructional designers should keep enjoyment in mind: it is important to intertwine self-fulfilling values with instrumental ones. For example, besides the hedonic properties of Second Life itself, the design of the environment and activities, such as role playing, should also be enjoyable.