Research suggests that students who participate in study abroad programs lack sufficient preparation prior to departure due to inadequate orientation methodology (Berdan, Goodman, & Taylor, 2013). This project set out to explore how virtual simulation might be used to strengthen students’ study abroad orientation experience. The project was based on the premise that virtual experiences can be used to immerse students in a target culture so they can learn about the five stages of culture shock. To this end, a 3D virtual world simulation was designed and developed using Minecraft. The purpose of the simulation was to instruct American university students, planning to study abroad in Japan, about the phenomenon of culture shock.
As part of the instructional design process, a usability study was conducted to evaluate the simulation’s navigation and efficiency, as well as user satisfaction. The development of this usability study stemmed from two main conceptual frameworks. These were Norman’s (2013) Seven-Stage Action Cycle for observing user-based performance around certain tasks, and Keller’s (1987) ARCS Model of Motivational Design for creating the foundation users experienced.
In total, twelve (n = 12) participants evaluated the simulation’s usability by navigating a linear sojourn while performing certain usability tasks. Participants also completed a one-on-one cognitive walkthrough with the investigator. Results of the analysis indicated that the simulation was, in fact, useful for the target audience and that learning through virtual worlds may be an effective means of introducing students to a target culture. In hindsight, as favorable as virtual world learning environments might seem, developers should expect a substantial time commitment in using this method of instruction.
(Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b9IOdsebRM&feature=youtu.be)