Lindy McKeown Orwin describes 5 roles for virtual worlds in her blog post (results of her PhD research).

Roles for Virtual Worlds in Education
Roles for Virtual Worlds in Education

  • Location - A place to learn (distance learning), an event location or a perfomance location
  • Context - Lifelike and virtually real (Real Virtuality)
  • Content - The world and interacting with it is the content
  • Community - Relationships with teachers, colleagues, experts, practitioners, enthusiasts, professionals
  • Material - Make stuff using the world like machinima with the world as the set and the avatars as the actors; building as art.
  • Combination uses.

Reference to this diagram in book form:
McKeown, L. (2008) in Jakobsdottir, S., McKeown, L. & Hoven, D. (2009). Using the New Information and Communications Technologies for the Continuing Professional Development of Teachers through Open and Distance Learning. In Umar, A. & Danaher, P. A. (Eds). Perspectives on Teacher Education Through Open and Distance Learning. Vancouver, Ca.: The Commonwealth of Learning . p.111

Key attributes of virtual worlds that are useful for educators:

  • Warp time - slow time down; speed time up; go back in time; project forward in time.
  • Manipulate scale - zoom in or out; create giant or miniature versions.
  • Transport - interact with spatially distributed places; connect spatially distributed people; move between them rapidly (teleport)
  • Simulate - realistic places and contexts, processes, data collection and interactions
  • Control and connect (Augmented virtuality) - objects and data from the physical world can be interfaced to the virtual world


explore, manipulate, create, experience, immerse, make, view.

See also Activities.