Group presence in virtual worlds : supporting collaborative e-learning

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor's Name

Ronald M. Lee

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Steve Zanakis

Third Advisor's Name

Ada Ray

Fourth Advisor's Name

Richard Tardanico

Fifth Advisor's Name

Joyce Elam

Date of Defense



Even though e-learning endeavors have significantly proliferated in recent years, current e-learning technologies provide poor support for group-oriented learning. The now popular virtual world’s technologies offer a possible solution. Virtual worlds provide the users with a 3D - computer generated shared space in which they can meet and interact through their virtual representations. Virtual worlds are very successful in developing high levels of engagement, presence and group presence in the users. These elements are also desired in educational settings since they are expected to enhance performance.

The goal of this research is to test the hypothesis that a virtual world learning environment provides better support for group-oriented collaborative e-learning than other learning environments, because it facilitates the emergence of group presence. To achieve this, a quasi-experimental study was conducted and data was gathered through the use of various survey instruments and a set of collaborative tasks assigned to the participants. Data was gathered on the dependent variables: Engagement, Group Presence, Individual Presence, Perceived Individual Presence, Perceived Group Presence and Performance. The data was analyzed using the statistical procedures of Factor Analysis, Path Analysis, Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA).

The study provides support for the hypothesis. The results also show that virtual world learning environments are better than other learning environments in supporting the development of all the dependent variables. It also shows that while only Individual Presence has a significant direct effect on Performance; it is highly correlated with both Engagement and Group Presence. This suggests that these are also important in regards to performance. Developers of e-learning endeavors and educators should incorporate virtual world technologies in their efforts in order to take advantage of the benefit they provide for e-learning group collaboration.



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