ION | Illinois Online Network

Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality

Sims, Labs, and Virtual Reality in Online Learning

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In this 8 week course, the focus is on educational simulations, games, and highly interactive virtual environments and their use online courses. Topics include a theoretical framework for using these tools in educational environments, types and selection of simulations, games, and highly interactive virtual environments, instructor and student roles, evaluation and assessment, and strategic considerations.


The course is aimed at individuals who wish to implement simulations, games, online laboratories and/or virtual reality applications in their teaching, particularly on the web in online environments.


1. Module 1 - Theoretical Framework (1 week)
2. Module 2 - Simulations and Interactive Content
3. Module 3 - HIVE Selection (2 weeks)
4. Module 4 - Instructor Roles (1 week)
5. Module 5 - Evaluation and Assessment (1 week)
6. Module 6 - Strategic Considerations (1 week)


1. Theoretical Framework 1.1. Highly Interactive Virtual Environments (HIVEs) 1.2. Adrich's Levels of Interactivity 1.2.1. Pre-game Levels (little interactivity) Lecture Question/Answer Feedback/Response Question/Answer Discussion with Defense 1.2.2. Game Levels (higher interactivity) Lab or process engagement with single targeted outcome Open-ended lab or activity and/or content creation Lengthy open-ended activities with unknown (flexible) outcomes 2. Simulations and Interactive Content 2.1. Benefits of simulations 2.2. Simulation content models 2.3. Simulations, gaming, and pedagogy 2.4. Simulation genres 3. HIVE Selection 3.1. Matching approach to need 3.2. Game-based learning and online courses 3.3. Second Life as a HIVE example 3.4. HIVEs and higher education 4. Instructor Roles 4.1. Teaching in virtual worlds 4.2. Extending real classrooms into virtual worlds 4.3. Teaching with simulations 5. Evaluation and Assessment 5.1. Tools for assessing and evaluating simulations 5.2. Assessing student learning 5.3. Immersive simulations as assessment tools 6. Strategic Considerations 6.1. Internal adoption of interactive environments 6.2. Resistance to change


  1. Develop a theoretical foundation for the use of labs, simulations, and games in online teaching
  2. Become familiar with a variety of simulations, labs, and games that could be used in online teaching
  3. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of using highly interactive content in specific teaching strategies
  4. Understand the variety of methodologies and interactive approaches that are available and their potential uses in the online environment


  1. Experience and understand the role of simulations and games in an online teaching environment
  2. Understand the differences between types of simulations, games, HIVEs, and other interactive content, and the potential usefulness of each
  3. Be able to select appropriate simulations or games for particular instructional strategies
  4. Be able to evaluate HIVEs for potential application in online teaching
  5. Understand the role of the instructor in various simulation and gaming scenarios
  6. Be able to use tools for the assessment and evaluation of simulations and games
  7. Be able to assess student learning in simulation and gaming environments
  8. Understand the role of simulations and games in the curriculum and in institutional infrastructures


The course is 8 weeks long including an online orientation.


Online Learning: An Overview is required.


  • Complete the online course orientation during the first 3 days of the course.
  • Read the instructorís lesson introductions and assigned articles from the Web.
  • Answer discussion questions related to the Web articles and course notes.
  • Engage is positive and meaningful dialog with classmates concerning the course subject matter. Discussions will be conducted using the Moodle Discussions tool.
  • Write a summary of the key items covered each week and how they apply to your online course.


The course has a modular structure consisting of separate units. Each unit is individually assessed, but successive units build upon previous information. The course pedagogy is based on collaborative learning and group participation, direct email, postings of materials, Web resources, and instructor notes. Content in the form of student participation in the discussion forums and comments on the ideas and work of others will also be present. Links to outside sources are also required to provide more in-depth information on some topics.


This is an intensive course requiring about 8-10 hours a week (possibly more). Thus, the time commitment will vary depending upon the individualís input, needs, and personal study habits. Students are required to log on to the course a minimum of 4 times a week.

Credit Options

Continuing Education Credit (CEU Credit) 8 Continuing education units (CEU credit) are available for this course.


A fee is incurred for anyone enrolled in an Advanced Online Seminar, although there is a discount for ION members. (Only Diamond level ION partners are exempt.) The fee is determined by the number of contact hours and online discussion requirements for the course. To view the fee schedule for a specific section of this course, visit the Schedule and click on the link for that section (e.g. TM1051).

Taking a course for Graduate Credit through the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS):
Most MVCR courses [not the Advanced Online Seminars] may be taken for graduate credit through UIS. You do not pay twice if you choose this route. You pay only the tuition and fees associated with UIS enrollment. If you choose to enroll through UIS, you need to follow the instructions. You do not register through this site.

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Taking Courses for Academic Credit

Most 8-week MVCR courses can also be taken for academic credit through the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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Suggested Tracks

Instruction Centric

  • Online Learning
  • Instructional Design
  • Student Assessment
  • Encouraging Comm.
  • Elective
  • Practicum

Technology Centric

  • Online Learning
  • Technology Tools
  • Instructional Design
  • Student Assessment
  • Elective (Multimedia or Sims, Labs, Games, and VR)
  • Practicum

Support Professional

  • Online Learning
  • Instructional Design
  • Student Assessment
  • Universal Design
  • Elective (Supporting Students, Copyright, Global eLearning, Blended/Hybrid, Librarians Collaborating, Multimedia Principles)
  • Practicum

COLA - track

  • Administration Seminar
  • Quality Assurance
  • Issues and Strategies in Faculty Training
  • Supporting Students Online

Choose one of the following three for your elective:

  • Administration of Online Programs
  • Copyright
  • Blended - Hybrid Learning Design and Instruction
  • Practicum for Administrators
What They're Saying
"I would like to "borrow" your on-line course wholesale and adapt it to my future on-line courses. You have some excellent ideas for how to implement group projects."     

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Award winning courses

The MVCR program won the Award for Excellence in ALN Faculty Develop-ment (in conjunction with other ION programs) from the Sloan-consortium in 2002. One of our instructors won the WebCT Exemplary Online Course Award for an MVCR course as well.

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