Digital Ethics in virtual worlds


Sharma, S., Lomash, H., & Bawa, S. (2015). Who Regulates Ethics in the Virtual World? Science and Engineering Ethics, (1), 19. (2013, August 27). Privacy policy. Retrieved at (secure server). (2015, June 1). Terms of service. Retrieved at (secure server).




My mission statement


Throughout my varied careers and experiences is a thread of commonality, the desire to see others achieve their goals. This desire has manifested itself in my pursuit of leadership and teaching opportunities in my careers, personal pursuits, and in volunteer work. Removing barriers such as the limits poverty and distance is a focus of mine as these are personal barriers I have faced. Technology and distance learning as well as virtual employment have been beneficial in this. I myself have achieved my education only do to the availability of distance education. In addition, my virtual employment has overcome the barrier of limited local resources in employment.

Through self-reflection and analysis of my experiences key words that express my personal goals, how I wish to impact others are: to uplift and inspire, broaden horizons, deepen understanding, enlighten, strengthen and support, inform, increase awareness, protect human dignity, share beauty and joy, challenge people to think – to examine their beliefs and the effect these have on themselves and others, and to minister on a spiritual level of truth. This is likely why my future goals fall into a desire to teach and to express myself in creative fields through technology.

Choosing a platform for a 3D simulation/ tour of the ability sim.

I have chosen to design a 3D environment using open simulator. The delivery I am using for this is through due to the low cost and easy access. This is a beneficial platform because it allows you to save your work in OAR files, use the OAR on a personal computer through Dreamworld, move it to other platforms, use on pivate servers and even convert to a Unity file. For more information on the Untiy converter you can visit,

3D environments are immersive and interactive. It allows for synchronous or asynchronous learning depending upon the needs of the instructor and ability level of the student. Due to the wide variety of design features, video, audio, text, quiz, and question abilities with scripts, non-player characters and easy adaptability, it is the perfect environment to design an educational simulation that can be quickly changed and modified by other educators. I have Dreamworld on my home computer and can design OARs offline if I choose to or use them in a secure environment offline with students. This is why I have chosen to use this versatile option for 3D curriculum development.

If you have never visited a virtual world, to prepare for multiverse masters, I recommend , and It is a course designed by another virtual world group but useful for beginners. Additional support will be in blogposts and videos on, and Instructions for how to access Multiverse Masters can also be found here,

Below you will find a visual tour of the work in progress.


Beckhusen, F. (2018). Dreamworld. Outworldz. Retrieved on Oct 18, 2018, from


simulation 2 001

The entry point to the Island is separate from the simulation, and offers a multiple use area for several educational activities.

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The Simulation entry point uses information booths and signage to help the student navigate.

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Note cards deliver important information. Options are offered to the participant(s) to encourage engagement. simulation 2 004

A story line is created to engage the learner.simulation 2 005

Choices are given to allow for immediate feedback on the potential consequences of a participants actions and decisions.

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Required answers can test the participants understanding.

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Different roles can be assigned for working both individually or as a group.simulation 2 010simulation 2 011

Random statements can be programmed into non-player characters to vary the experience

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Realistic environments can easily be created at low cost.

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Each area can interact with the participant through the use of scripting.

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These areas will eventually have the question marks to guide tasks and discussions.

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By adding non-player Characters, even the individual can get a sense of a full story line in the simulation.

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This is a work in progress.

The effectiveness of using simulations in virtual worlds to impact social change.

The effectiveness of using simulations in virtual worlds to impact social change.

A Review of the Literature

Salie Davis

Advanced Design Seminar


Dr. Nicola Marea Allain

October 28, 2019


Articles in academic journals are explored to determine the effectiveness of simulations and role play in virtual world settings in their ability to impact changes in awareness and empathy towards differences in ability. A current study where the author was able to identify the impact a virtual world simulation had in changing attitudes and perceptions using virtual world role play whereas the participants took on the role of an avatar to empathize with the personal and emotional experiences of that avatar was conducted by Tiffany, and Hoglund in 2016. Other than this specific study, the search parameters of social change, simulation, and virtual world, in academic journals in the field of education did not yield results specifically related to increasing awareness and empathy in the participant to encourage real-world social change

Research has been conducted on similar subjects, such as the general effectiveness and impact on learning using virtual world simulations. Searching those terms in the One Search ESC library database resulted in 2,287 hits in the educational category for academic journals. Research also supports that personality is impacted by the virtual world and that the virtual world experiences impact real-life changes ( McLeod, P. L., Liu, Y.-C., & Axline, J. E, 2014). This literature review seeks to evaluate whether available research supports the goal of determining if the outcomes of learning in virtual environments through simulations have a lasting impact on personality changes, specific to an increase in empathy toward individuals with different abilities.

Research selection and definitions:

Academic articles were researched that address the social interactions, associated benefits and risks, and the community and personality development as it relates to virtual worlds. Research has shown that learning is a social process (Veletsianos and Navarrete, 2012). This research is essential in understanding the underpinnings of the educational uses and effectiveness of virtual worlds in learning outcomes (Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R.2009, Kramer, S. 2010, Lerner, J. E. 2016, Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. 2014, Mon, L. 2010). Research specifically studying online virtual worlds and the theory that positive social change and an increase in empathy and awareness can be accomplished using simulations and role play in immersive virtual world environments has been conducted (Tiffany, and Hoglund, 2016). Simulations are intended to help the user experience through immersive technology an event, a place, or a role that they are not able to in a real-world scenario. (Nelson, 2013, Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R., 2009). Historical understanding is also essential therefor research was included to give a basis of understanding concerning the overall effectiveness of teaching and learning in virtual worlds. For the use of this literature review “virtual world” can be defined as the definition of an online virtual world is a 3D multi-user environment with user-generated content. It is also defined as an online, computer based, and browser based virtual reality platform (Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. 2010).

Historical research:

According to Merchant, Goetz, Cifuentes, Keeney-Kennicutt, & Davis, immersive virtual reality has been in existence for almost sixty years beginning in the1960’s. (2014). The use of online virtual worlds increased in the beginning of the 21st century with private and educational institutions contributing to and creating virtual interactions for science-based simulations, such as virtual dissection and virtual museum simulations (Merchant, Goetz, Cifuentes, Keeney-Kennicutt, & Davis, 2014). Social change through the use of virtual worlds to impact personality through avatar identity has only recently been studied (Barton-Arwood, S., Lunsford, L., & Suddeth, S. W. 2016, Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. 2018, Tiffany, J., & Hoglund, B. 2016, Triberti, S., Durosini, I., Aschieri, F., Villani, D., & Riva, G. 2017).

Historical studies have shown that the use of simulations in real-world applications is very effective in changing attitudes and increasing awareness and empathy toward people with disabilities. (Goddard, Jordan, 1998). These studies however were not based on virtual world environments.

Online virtual worlds have historically based their foundations on “…interactive entertainment products and services” (Linden Research, Inc., 2017, para 2). This has influenced the overall public perception of virtual worlds as an adult themed virtual playground (Carver, L. B. 2016).  Educational virtual worlds are usually privatized by educational institutions. Historically they have been limited to concrete concepts and facts rather than challenging social perceptions and attitudes. (Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R. 2009, Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. 2010, Lerner, J. E. 2016, Michele D. Dickey. 2011, Roussou, M. 2002). In the history of virtual worlds however, they have long been used for simulations and role playing in educational and learning goals (Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R. 2009, Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. 2010, Lerner, J. E. 2016).


Research articles explore the design of virtual worlds for various uses of educational applications and techniques. (Carver, L. B. 2016, Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R. 2009, Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. 2010, Kramer, S. 2010) Narrowing the research specifically to simulations in virtual worlds and social change in One Search ESC library database using the key word of simulation, virtual world, and social change resulted in 536 hits. Narrowed down to the field of education brought the search results down to 87. Limiting this further to academic journals revealed 41 potential articles on these topics, of these only 2 were directly relevant to this research topic, addressing social change in perceptions, personality, or empathy through the use of simulations in virtual worlds. (Tzemopoulos, A. 2014, Zielke, M., Roome, T., & Krueger, A. 2009). These studies were done on the impact of personality and real-world changes in these online communities whereas the participant has direct influence over their avatar choice and interactions. In the role play and simulation study for social education Tiffany and Hogland discuss the impact that can be accomplished by preset avatar identities and activities not directly controlled by the participant.

In virtual worlds, as an avatar, people can explore different environments and roles. (Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. 2018, Tiffany, J., & Hoglund, B. 2016, Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. 2018, Lerner, J. E. 2016, Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. 2014, Michele D. Dickey. 2011, Mon, L. 2010, Roussou, M. 2002, Tiffany, J., & Hoglund, B.2016). Avatar identity studies, have also been conducted, however research has not been focused on the potential influence on real world changes in understanding through simulations. Instead these studies have focused on avatar development and the development of a virtual community online (Triberti, S., Durosini, I., Aschieri, F., Villani, D., & Riva, G. 2017, Tzemopoulos, A. 2014).  Groups of professionals and individuals network within these online virtual worlds creating virtual communities that offer social support and resources.

According to research learning based simulations have been used for combined synchronous and asynchronous educational goals. (Gregory, Sue, 2012) A virtual world simulation is beneficial because of the “unique affordances that it offers in enhancing learners’ cognitive skills” (Merchant et al., 2014, para. 6). Participants use avatar identity to connect themselves or who they wish to be, with the virtual world and virtual community(Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. 2018, McLeod, P. L., Liu, Y.-C., & Axline, J. E. 2014, Triberti, S., Durosini, I., Aschieri, F., Villani, D., & Riva, G. 2017, Tzemopoulos, A. 2014). This emotional connection to avatar identity is useful in allowing participants to experience avatar identities that they would not otherwise experience in the virtual world and to transfer that emotional awareness and knowledge gained by the experience into real world applications and empathy (Tiffany, and Hoglund, 2016). This is also because research supports the effectiveness of learning in immersive virtual world simulations in general “The contemporary notion of learning environments recognizes that meaningful, active learning takes place in complex, multi-model environments in which the learner plays an active role in constructing knowledge” (Dickey, 2011, p.2).

The research explored was based on standard educational pedagogues and transferred to the virtual world concept through generalization. “Established adult learning theories have been transferred to teaching in the VW where normal pedagogical practices have continued. No new theories have emerged and researchers have been adapting current theories to fit into the framework of their teaching scenarios.”(Lerner, 2012, p.3) Generalizing research that is non-specific has disadvantages, however may be necessary given the limited amount of current specific research. This is due to the fact that drawing conclusions from limited sources holds the same disadvantage (Hew and Cheung, 2010).

According to recent studies that were more specific towards the ability of virtual world simulations to change perceptions and attitudes in real world applications, “Students indicated that they increased their own capacity to understand, appreciate, and relate to people different from themselves” (Tiffany, and Hoglund , 2016 p.1) Other research indicated that the success of influence is directly related to the personality of the participant (Triberti, S., Durosini, I., Aschieri, F., Villani, D., & Riva, G. 2017). Students who are open to change and engaged in the learning process responded more positively to virtual world role play of more complex social scenarios. “Research has indicated that technology can increase student motivation, attitude, engagement and self-confidence, while improving organization and study skills” (Carver, 2016, p.110). This open attitude to new experience is essential. According to research, simulations have also been more successful to learning due to the level of safety and anonymity that the virtual world offers. “Simulations are often used for learning in a VW so that students can experience doing things that are impossible to do in a real world.” (Lerner, 2012, p.3).

Studies have also shown that communication is essential in teaching and learning (Hew & Cheung, 2010, Veletsianos, G. & Navarrete, C. C. 2012).  The virtual world is an immersive environment for role play and simulation due to its various platforms for communication. “Communication in virtual world can take both verbal and nonverbal forms” (Hew & Cheung, 2010, p. 36). Auditory input and output, in-world animations and written text chat are the primary forms of real time person to person communication in world, while text on signs, note cards, audio and visual input through video, music, websites and links, and visual display of objects are communications used on an individual basis and not dependent on live person to person communication (Hew & Cheung, 2010).This helps expand the use of role play and simulation design beyond social interaction, community involvement, or networking. This also complicates conclusions based on research that was conducted using virtual community interaction and person to person (or avatar to avatar) relationships since it is based on the individual’s personal reflections ((Hew and Cheung, 2010, Tiffany, J., & Hoglund, B. 2016).

Aside from community and social interaction, research conducted showed that “transformative learning whereby students reflect and then act on this reflection” (Lerner, 2012, p 7) was successful in increasing the potential for learning. This supports the possibility that independent roleplay and simulations may be effective in achieving learning goals. According to Mcleod, arousal of emotion is needed to establish empathy. The visual build and simulation environment increases immersion thus increasing the emotional impact on the participant. In addition, the personal identity created by the relationship between the participant and their avatar brings in an additional emotional factor to the experience (Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. 2018). Openness to new experiences has also been identified as essential in initiating change in behaviors (McLeod, P. L., Liu, Y.-C., & Axline, J. E., 2014). Studies suggest that the effectiveness of virtual worlds is directly related to the personality traits of participants, and in how engaged they are in the experience, more than the presentation of the environment or information (Barton-Arwood, S., Lunsford, L., & Suddeth, S. W. 2016, Carver, L. B. 2016 Roussou, M. 2002).

One article addressed increasing empathy through a virtual game (Sterkenburg, P. S., & Vacaru, V. S. 2018). Several articles address virtual simulations and their benefits (Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R. 2009, Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S.,2010 Lerner, J. E. 2016). The challenge is finding research to support the impact on the individual participants social perceptions, awareness and empathy as it transfers from virtual world experiences to real world social change beyond the research done by Tiffany & Hoglund in 2016.

Social and emotional learning can be assessed through retrospective and participant reporting data. The research I reviewed concerning social change and increased empathy was based on participant surveys which can weaken the conclusions derived by the study. “A general problem of studies based on self-reported data is that participants usually have correct notions about socially desirable answers” (Hew and Cheung, 2010, p 44) Other that the study done by Tiffany & Hogland in 2016, research on avatar identity has been conducted only in so much as the participants chosen avatar identity influences real world perceptions (Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. 2018,  except for the research conducted by Tiffany & Hoglund in 2016, Triberti, S., Durosini, I., Aschieri, F., Villani, D., & Riva, G. 2017, Tzemopoulos, A. 2014, Zielke, M., Roome, T., & Krueger, A. 2009).


Virtual worlds are often used for simulations and experiential spaces however based on search results, most research is in the media arts and health and environment disciplines. (Barton-Arwood, S., Lunsford, L., & Suddeth, S. W. 2016, Goddard L, & Jordan L. 1998, McLeod, P. L., Liu, Y.-C., & Axline, J. E. 2014, Smith, M. J. 2016, Sterkenburg, P. S., & Vacaru, V. S. 2018). Appling these outcomes to the field of education and social change context weakens the conclusion since specific research using the search parameters of simulation, virtual world, and social change in the field of education were limited.

Research articles that address the topic in part, adds to the overall body of knowledge about learning in virtual world simulations, however only two articles specifically addressed outcomes based on changes in awareness, or empathy needed to impact individual personality or social change (Sterkenburg, P. S., & Vacaru, V. S. 2018, Tiffany, and Hoglund, 2016).

More studies need to be completed on whether the avatar identity used in simulations or role play that has not been developed by the participant can have the same impact on perceptions of the participants in real world applications such as the one done by Tiffany & Hoglund in 2016. In addition, more studies need to be done on the impact of role playing in virtual worlds on the perceptions of participants. Even if studies show that immersive virtual world simulations can change perceptions, studies also need to be done on how changes in perception impacts behavior.


Barton-Arwood, S., Lunsford, L., & Suddeth, S. W. (2016). University-Community Partnerships in Teacher Preparation: Changing Attitudes about Students with Disabilities. Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education6, 4–20. Retrieved from

Carver, L. B. (2016). Teacher Perception of Barriers and Benefits in K-12 Technology Usage. Turkish Online Journal Of Educational Technology – TOJET, 15(1), 110-116. Retrieved from

Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R. (2009). Affordances and Limitations of Immersive Participatory Augmented Reality Simulations for Teaching and Learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, (1), 7. Retrieved from

Gregory, Sue, (2012) ADULTS LEARNING IN A VIRTUAL WORLD, ACEC2012: ITs Time Conference, retrieved from

Goddard L, & Jordan L. (1998). Changing attitudes about persons with disabilities: effects of a simulation. Journal of Neuroscience Nursing30(5), 307–313. Retrieved from

Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2010). Use of three-dimensional (3-D) immersive virtual worlds in K-12 and higher education settings: A review of the research. British Journal of Educational Technology, (1), 33. Retrieved from

Kramer, S. (2010). Teaching in Virtual Worlds: A Qualitative Case Study. ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Walden University.  416 Pp., 416. Retrieved from

Kuznetcova, I., Teeple, J., & Glassman, M. (2018). The dialectic of the avatar: Developing in-world identities in Second Life. Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds10(1), 59–71.

Lerner, J. E. (2016). Learning in Virtual Worlds: Research and Applications. American Journal of Distance Education30(4), 282–283.

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Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education70, 29–40.

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Mon, L. (2010). Communication and Education in a Virtual World: Avatar-Mediated Teaching and Learning in Second Life. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environmentsv1 n2 Article 1 p115, 15. Retrieved from

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Smith, M. J. (2016, January 1). Adding Debriefing to Objective Structured Clinical Examinations to Enhance Disability Cultural Sensitivity in Pharmacy StudentsProQuest LLC. ProQuest LLC. Retrieved from

Sterkenburg, P. S., & Vacaru, V. S. (2018). The effectiveness of a serious game to enhance empathy for care workers for people with disabilities: A parallel randomized controlled trial. Disability and Health Journal.

Tiffany, J., & Hoglund, B. (2016). Featured Article: Using Virtual Simulation to Teach Inclusivity: A Case Study. International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning Published by Elsevier Inc.

Triberti, S., Durosini, I., Aschieri, F., Villani, D., & Riva, G. (2017). Changing Avatars, Changing Selves? The Influence of Social and Contextual Expectations on Digital Rendition of Identity. CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking20(8), 501–507.

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Words of wisdom from a virtual student and a virtual employee.

For those who do not know me I have been isolated by poverty and distance since childhood. Technology has freed me from those bounds. I have been a virtual student since 2001 and have been a virtual employee for almost as long. I am forever surprised at the fear of technology that exists in our schools and in our professions. I worked for five years as a teacher and was daily faced with having to defend technology and argue its value and importance. Even as a Masters student I am still shocked at how slow educators and professionals are to accept technology due to misconceptions and fear. So here are my thoughts on the benefit of hybrid meetings using technology to facilitate networking and engagement.

While students and employees continue to benefit from face to face networking in a function room, new technologies are increasingly advancing with the ability to draw in participants who would otherwise be isolated. New technologies, not subject to physical boundaries are becoming increasingly more accessible.

This can be accomplished through personal mobile devices or virtual meeting environments, technology is the key to expanding outreach and the way content is communicated, both in conjunction with and separate from face to face communication. Not only are people who are limited by distance or other boundaries drawn into the discussion where they would otherwise be excluded, but those within the physical environment have access to a more engaged degree of interaction.

Overcoming fear of new technologies as taboo has always been a challenge. From the onset of telephonic conferences, rejected as impersonal, to video conferences rejected as intrusive, the taboo of having any electronic device in a classroom or meeting, all these taboos have been overcome and can now be looked back upon as the fear of change that slowed networking progress. 3D environments is the current taboo that professionals face in all fields that require networking and collaboration.

Mobile technology and social media are the current most active trends. 3D environments are quickly catching on, from virtual worlds to the development of walk in 3D web pages. The use of 3D environments are proving to increase engagement with the ability to learn and collaborate in meeting spaces. It is becoming common place to see layered meetings, even with face to face interaction, combined with distance communication and participants, live streaming, recording, gamification within the presentations, and multiple levels of interaction with links, slide shows, and even independent exploration of all of these options inside virtual environments.

Virtual meeting technology is efficient and cost effective. It eliminates travel, saves time, reduces expenditures, and increases convenience for the participant. It is also more environmentally friendly and quickly being adopted in the business fields, even as an alternative to the brick and mortar work space for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Companies have virtual employees using adobe rooms, Skype, Zoom, messenger, virtual networks and remote desktops because it is cost effective and convenient on a global scale. Colleges are needing to help students embrace virtual technology not only as a social and educational venue, but in career preparation in order to encourage future success.

Hybrid or blended meetings are the bridge for those still uncertain when it comes to improvements that require open mindedness towards newer technologies. Hybrid meetings have real time face to face components as well as virtual components, such as live streaming a conference or meeting with a group to experience a 3D immersive tour and discussion. Back channel conversations on social media, twitter, Facebook, or even meeting platforms such as Zoom, can work in conjunction with live events or live virtual immersive events.

Virtual meetings and immersive environments will never replace face to face interaction but they can greatly enhance them. We are social beings and physical proximity will always be a major aspect of networking and engagement. Emerging technologies merely enhance the experience and remove the boundaries that prevent many from participating. Those individuals who would otherwise feel isolated due to financial, physical, distance or other challenges, through blended environments are able to contribute and collaborate. The exploration of these interactive and immersive formats challenge us to become more relevant and more engaging. What a great opportunity to continue developing relationships that may start at a college or business event and be able to be nurtured and continued through the use of virtual and immersive technology.