Virtual Environments as a Tool for Conceptual Learning

Robb Lindgren, J. Michael Moshell, Charles E. Hughes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we discuss the design of virtual environments (VEs) for conceptual learning: understanding the important facts, principles, and relationships across many academic domains. The use of VEs in both formal and informal educational settings has exploded over the last decade. VEs have been used frequently by educators to connect students to a larger community of learners and as a way to appeal to a generation of children growing up with video games, online social networks, and other sophisticated interactive technologies. But while much of the rationale for using VEs in education is social and motivational in nature, these environments also have special properties for facilitating concept development and shaping student cognition in constructive ways. Rather than a comprehensive review of VEs for learning (for a more exhaustive survey, see Lopez, Hughes, Mapes, & Dieker, 2012; Mikropoulos & Natsis, 2011), this chapter will focus on five strategies for promoting conceptual learning in VEs: exploration, invention, inquiry, perceptual tuning, and action modification. Examples of each of these strategies used in educational technology research projects will be presented. Before describing these strategies in detail, we first define the space of educational VEs and describe their relevance to some of the predominant theories of how people learn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Virtual Environments
Subtitle of host publicationDesign, Implementation, and Applications, Second Edition
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781466511859
ISBN (Print)9781466511842
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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