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Story as a vehicle for learning in online role play : a case study
conference contributionposted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by Mary Dracup
In online role plays, students are asked to engage with a story that serves as a metaphor for real-life experience as they learn and develop skills. However, practitioners rarely examine the characteristics and management of this story as factors in the students' engagement in and learning from the activity. In this paper I present findings from a recent case study which examines these factors in an online role play that has been named as an exemplar and has been run for 19 years in Australian and international universities to teach Middle East politics and journalism. Online role plays are increasingly popular in tertiary education, in forms ranging from simple text-based role plays to virtual learning environment activities and e-simulations. The role play I studied required students to communicate in role via simulated email messages and draw on real-life resources and daily simulated online newspaper publications produced by the journalism students rather than rely on information or automated interactions built into an interface. This relatively simple format enabled me to observe clearly the impact of the technique's basic design elements. I studied both the story elements of plot, character and setting and the non-story elements of assessment, group work and online format. The data collection methods include analysis of student emails in the role play, a questionnaire, a focus group, interviews and the journal I kept as a participant-observer in the role play. In evaluating the qualities and impact of story elements I drew upon established aesthetic principles for drama and poststructuralist drama education.