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Volume 18 / Issue 18

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DOI:   10.3217/jucs-018-18-2576


MareMonstrum: a Contribution to Empirical Research about How the Use of MUVEs May Improve Students' Motivation

Pilar Sancho (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)

Javier Torrente (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)

Baltasar Fernández-Manjón (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)

Abstract: The use of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) is a trend topic in virtual education and e-learning. A number of research papers and literature reviews addresses how digital natives learn in a different way than the previous generation and how these kinds of highly interactive environments may positively affect their motivation. But actual efficacy of MUVEs to enhance students' motivation has not been deeply backed up yet by empirical research. This paper contributes with a small experiment conducted on an elective programming course for engineering students. The hypothesis was that the use of a MUVE would improve students' motivation towards learning. To evaluate the veracity of this hypothesis, the dropout rates of the course were compared alongside four academic years, assuming that lower dropout rates imply a motivation increase. The first two years (Y1 and Y2) a traditional approach based on lectures, weekly assignments and a final exam was used. The last two years (Y3 and Y4), the NUCLEO approach was used. NUCLEO is a pedagogical strategy that combines game mechanics (including collaboration and competition), problem-based learning and a fantastic narrative metaphor. In Y3 the NUCLEO approach was implemented having a flat classical interface provided by the standard Moodle Learning Management System (LMS), while in Y4 a ·3D MUVE was used as interface. Dropouts during the traditional teaching period (Y1-2) fell dramatically during the NUCLEO teaching period (Y3-4). However, dropouts were higher in Y4 when a MUVE was used as interface (16.66%) compared to Y3 (9.09%). These data suggest that just using a MUVE or a 3D environment can enhance motivation but to achieve maximum effectiveness if they are combined with elements like game mechanics. These data were also backed up by satisfaction questionnaires fulfilled by teachers and students.

Keywords: computer supported collaborative learning, learning in multi-user virtual environments, problem based learning

Categories: H.5.1, J.2, L.5.1, L.6.1