Tag Archives: higher education

What is 3D Game Lab? And I want in!

“3D GameLab, the first meta-game platform to help teachers turn their classroom into a living game.” – 3D Game Lab

“Developed by Boise State University, 3D GameLab is a unique quest-based learning platform that can turn any classroom into a living game. 3D GameLab helps teachers tie innovative learning activities to standards, providing learners choice while they game their way through a competency-based curriculum.” – The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition (2012, p. 20).

The following YouTube video provides an overview of 3D Game Lab:

If you are interested in jumping into 3D Game Lab, you need to be a member of the Beta – there is a way:
Step 1: Participate in the 3D Game Lab Camp!
The 3D Game Lab Camp is an online camp/conference where you, the educator, becomes the learner. The camp is only held at certain times of the year, so in the meantime, you are able to sign up for the 3D Game Lab Newsletter, follow them on Facebook and/or Twitter – all accessible through 3D Game Lab

Step 2: During 3D Game Lab Camp…
You will be immersed in 3D Game Lab, gaining experience points as you complete quests, collaborating with other educators and participating in events throughout the month. You will have guides who will show you the way and complete short quests that build on past quests. The following is a sample of one of the guide videos:

Step 3: On completion of 3D Game Lab, you will have access to create your own learning modules in 3D Game Lab…
You will have access to the Academy Quests and these will step you thorough the admin interface and walk you through how to create a group, quests and invite people/students.

You will find there is great network of educators providing support along the way. The 3D Game Lab support team also offer a ‘Community Support’ portal powered by Get Satisfaction. The community is accessible through 3D Game Lab Community Support. 


Image: From 3D Game Lab Get Satisfaction portal

For more information on 3D Game Lab, go to:


Second Life Case Studies

Two key uses of Second Life as a learning tool in higher education are
  1. Online Teaching and Student Campuses – focus in on ‘online’ learning
  2. Simulations in a ‘Safe’ Environment – focus is on ‘e-learning’

Examples of Online Teaching and Student Campuses 

  • The Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts has linked Second Life and Blackboard to create a “unified, secure and fluid hybrid learning experience” for students. Find out more through the IDIA Project page 
  • Ball State University, a leader in using Second Life within higher education, offers students courses, completely through Second Life in how to be an active participant within the multiuser online world. Refer to the article Ball State offers class teaching people Second Life for more information. 
  • The first video shows Coastline College Virtual Second Life Campus and the second video Deakin University Second Life Campus. Each are from different higher education disciplines, the first mathematics and the second is a selection of creative disciplines. These two videos provide examples of the two extremes available in campus development within Second Life. The first is more of a transitional style where the campus looks as though it could be a real campus, they even have a receptionist! The second is a true virtual campus that goes beyond the realm of reality.

Examples of Simulations in a Safe Environment

  • Doctoral candidates of Indiana University of Pennyslvania created a “Virtual World Simulation – Demonstrating their ability to rapidly build an Immersive Learning Simulation using the Preso-Matic Game Kit” – watch their video below:
  • Simulations are popular in Second Life and the following video shows some of the features and functionality that is possible within Second Life for Nursing students: 

Higher Education and Student Expectations Today

Within the context of higher education today, there is a movement away from an education model towards a business model. Universities are in the process of defining themselves within the ‘business’ space and the following trends are impacting the definition:

  • Opportunities for ‘Open’ education (movement away from entrance ranks to education for all) is in its infancy, but a driver for e-learning.
  • Teaching versus research institution poses an increase demand on academic staff in relation to research, the promotion of and findings.
  • Government funding is targeted towards the percentage of low-SES students attending the University.
  • Disengagement of students with ‘knowledge’ driven classroom settings (lecture/readings/tutorials) at a time where retention is essential for the underlying business model.

The following video highlights expectations of students within higher education today and questions the traditional practices, including classroom design, that are a part of everyday University life.

Given the current context of higher education, combined with the current digital environment demands and Johnson, et. al’s (2012) projection of education in the next three to five years, the educator needs to embark on Wesch’s (2012) idea of moving:
  • from a knowledgeable (knowing and retaining information) practice of teaching
  • to knowledage-able (find, sort, analyze, discuss, critique and create information) practice of teaching.

Kanuka on Instructional Design and eLearning – an overview

“…many of the problems and concerns that have been identified in the literature related to eLearning – such as, for example, low rates of participation, learner resistance, high non-completion rates, poor learner performance (Bates, 2005; Kanuka et al., 2006) – can be addressed by working with a team of instructional design experts.” (Kanuka, 2006, p. 2)

What is Kanuka’s argument? 

Kanuka (2006) identifies that there is a gap in research between ‘content knowledge and instructional design models’ (p.2) and argues that pedagogical content should:

  1. become integrated with the roles and functions of instructional design;
  2. be a requisite component with programmes of instructional design; and
  3. a principal focus of further research.

An overview of Kanuka:

Kanuka (2006) explores the idea that instructional design in higher education is not a new idea. Instructional design degrees have been around for over forty years. As “computer technologies advanced so too did instructional design services” (p. 2).

Instructional design, as defined by Kanuka (2006) ‘is the process of translating general principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials and learning activities’ (p. 3). ‘Most often the role of the instructional designer is described as a consultant in the instructional design process. The consulting activities commonly include communication, instructional strategies, editing, marketing, media development, evaluation and project management (Kenny et al., 2005 as cited Kanuka, 2006, p. 3). With a focus on higher education, Kanuka, 2006 states:

‘Within institutions of higher education, instructional designers provide consulting to teaching faculty or academics (often referred to as subject matter experts, or SMEs) in the production of curriculum development for eLearning activities. This entails the undertaking of:

  1. the analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation training and performance solutions (ADDIE);
  2. the development of course materials consistent with sound instructional design principle, and technological and pedagogical strategies;
  3. the design and implementation of learning elements; and
  4. the development of assessment and evaluation.

Kanuka (2006) focuses on ‘social constructivist’ and advises there has been a rise is this philosophical orientation in instruction design (see pages 4-5). Social constructivists “argue that educators will need to understand that learners will require a variety of different experiences to advance to different kinds and levels of understanding. To achieve this, educators need to spend time understanding their learner’s current perspectives and, based on this information, incorporate learning activities that have real world relevant for each learner” (p. 5).

“The growth of social constructivist perspectives within the field of education is based on the recognition of our increasingly complex societies. Educators within institutions of higher education are faced with the rise of information society and new technologies, the increasing diversity of students, new educational institutions, the increasing emphasis on learning over teaching, and the emergence of postmodern ways of knowing (Austin, 2002, as cited Kanuka, 2006, p. 5).

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)

My understanding of Kanuka (2006) on Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) is that in order to have an effective teaching and learning space, it is not only about being an expert in the field of practice, but also about having a practical knowledge of pedagogy. It was Shulman (as cited Kanuka, 2006, p. 6) that became aware of the dichotomy between ‘teachers’ subject matter knowledge and teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy’ (see p. 6). Kanuka (2006) documents research that that the approach of content experts with a teaching degree is different to the approach of trained researchers. Shulman (as cited Kanuka, 2006, p.6) proposes PCK involves:

  • an understanding of how to structure and present the subject matter to be learned
  • an understanding of the common conceptions, misconceptions, and difficulties that learners encounter when learning particular subject matter
  • knowledge of the instructional strategies that are effective at addressing students’ learning needs in particular classroom circumstances

What is important to note is the ‘assumption that pedagogy takes precedent over content is misguided’ (Kanuka, 2006, p. 8). Connections between pedagogy and content need to be made and the framework of PCK places this connection at the forefront.


Kanuka, H. (2006). Instructional Design and eLearning: A Discussion of Pedagogical Content Knowledge as a Missing Construct. Athabasca University: Canada. Accessible from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/e-jist/docs/vol9_no2/papers/full_papers/kanuka.htm (opens in a new window).