What are the learning affordances of 3-D virtual environments?

Barney Dalgarno, Mark Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1148 Citations (Scopus)
807 Downloads (Pure)


This article explores the potential learning benefits of three-dimensional (3-D) virtual learning environments (VLEs). Drawing on published research spanning two decades, it identifies a set of unique characteristics of 3-D VLEs, which includes aspects of their representational fidelity and aspects of the learner'computer interactivity they facilitate. A review of applications of 3-D VLEs is presented, leading to the identification of a series of learning affordancesof such environments. These affordances include the facilitation of tasks that lead to enhanced spatial knowledge representation, greater opportunities for experiential learning, increased motivation/engagement, improved contextualisation of learning and richer/more effective collaborative learning as compared to tasks made possible by 2-D alternatives. The authors contend that the continued development of and investment in 3-D games, simulations and virtual worlds for educational purposes should be considered contingent on further investigation into the precise relationships between the unique characteristics of 3-D VLEs and their potential learning benefits. To this end, they conclude by proposing an agenda or 'roadmap' for future research that encompasses empirical studies aimed at exploring these relationships, as well as those aimed at deriving principles and guidelines to inform the design, development and use of 3-D virtual environments for learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-32
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


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