Importance of realism in virtual learning environments.

Virtual learning experiences can produce learning results that parallel that of the real world, but this is largely dependent upon the ability of the specific virtual environment to accurately represent the physical environment. At minimum, it must incorporate pedagogical components equivalent to that in the tangible setting. Ideally, it should offer enough realism to allow suspension of disbelief. 

An article by Schuh & Barab in 2007 related five psychological perspectives to learning theories and methods. In all five, the medium used is not a determining factor of the resulting education that should occur if sound pedagogical principles are implemented. In fact, digital media is merely an alternative type of instructional material and not specifically discussed. The focus of Schuh & Barab is on the theoretical and philosophical foundations of education, which should apply equally in traditional and virtual settings. Viewing their data, interaction with the environment is a recurring theme in the unit of analysis for most standpoints Schuh & Barab (2007). This is true whether this environment is viewed as a world, ecosystem, or society.

With this in mind (no pun intended), it is imperative to ensure that virtual learning experiences mirror the real environment as precisely as possible. When done effectively, the learning results should be representative of instructional effectiveness- regardless of the medium used to deliver it.


Schuh, K., & Barab, S. (2007). Philosophical perspectives. In J.M. Spector, M. D. Merrill, J. van Merrienboer, & M. P. Driscoll (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 67-82 ). New York: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. Retrieved from


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