Title: Empathy in virtual learning environments

Authors: Judith Molka-Danielsen, Bryan W. Carter, Alastair Creelman

Addresses: Department of Economics, Informatics and Social Sciences, Molde University College, P.O. 2110, 6402 Molde, Norway. ' University of Central Missouri, Martin 336 Warrensburg, MI 64093, USA. ' Distance Education, Kalmar University College, Kalmar, Sweden

Abstract: How do we engage teachers and learners in the learning process and what are the benefits of this? How do we get students to learn? Many academic institutions of all levels are asking these questions. Throughout the years new teaching methodologies and strategies have been explored and applied (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; Dewey, 1997). In assessments of these, some have been associated with improving the targeted students| levels of knowledge, understanding, functionality and motivations (Gulbahar and Tinmaz, 2006; Kjellin and Stenfors, 2003). In this study we review a variety of teaching methodologies and introduce a research hypothesis that these methodologies have an unlike potential for supporting empathic aspects of the teacher and learner relationship and that, further, Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) will have strong potential for empathic support. We set up an evaluation framework using a qualitative approach to examine the empathic factor in VLEs. Finally, we identify design factors for VLEs that could impact learning and suggest these as the focus for future study.

Keywords: virtual learning environments; VLEs; empathy; engagement; teaching methodologies; Second Life; online learning; e-learning.

DOI: 10.1504/IJNVO.2009.022971

International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, 2009 Vol.6 No.2, pp.123 - 139

Available online: 05 Feb 2009 *

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