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An Experiment on Anonymity and Multi-User Virtual Environments: Manipulating Identity to Increase Learning from Online Collaborative Discussion

Richard N. Landers and Rachel C. Callan
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Richard N. Landers: Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA
Rachel C. Callan: Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 2014, vol. 6, issue 2, 53-64

Abstract: Little prior research has empirically examined anonymity in learning. In this study, we manipulated learner identity by experimentally assigning learners to participate in online discussion either anonymously or using their actual name, crossed with learning medium (OpenSim/Second Life vs. real-time chat), with the goal of determining if anonymous discussion in multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) provides unique value to learning (a 2x2 between-subjects design). Results from a quantitative hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed both main effects: participants who were anonymous scored lower (d = -0.46) and participants discussing in a MUVE scored lower (d = -0.47) on the learning measure without interactive effect, suggesting that anonymizing participants during content-related discussion may reduce learning under certain circumstances. The authors suggest instructors encourage learners to represent themselves authentically in any VEs to maximize learning and also discourage instructors from adopting MUVEs if their only reason to do so is to host synchronous discussion.

Date: 2014
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