Scientific inquiry in educational multi-user virtual environments

Brian Nelson, Diane Jass Ketelhut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


In this paper, we present a review of research into the problems of implementing authentic scientific inquiry curricula in schools and the emerging use of educational Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) to support interactive scientific inquiry practices. Our analysis of existing literature in this growing area of study reveals three recurrent themes: (1) with careful design and inclusion of virtual inquiry tools, MUVE-based curricula can successfully support real-world inquiry practices based on authentic interactivity with simulated worlds and tools, (2) Educational MUVEs can support inquiry that is equally compelling for girls and boys, and (3) research on student engagement in MUVE-based curricula is uneven. Based on these themes, we suggest that future large-scale research should investigate (1) the extent to which MUVE-based inquiry learning can be a viable substitute for the activities involved in real-world inquiry; (2) the impact of MUVEs on learning and engagement for currently underserved students, and (3) the impact on engagement and learning of individual aspects of MUVE environments, particularly virtual experimentation tools designed to scaffold student inquiry processes and maintain engagement. Additionally, we note that two identified issues with integrating scientific inquiry into the classroom are currently not addressed by MUVE research. We urge researchers to investigate whether (1) MUVE-based curriculum can help teachers meet state and national standards with inquiry curricula; and (2) scientific inquiry curricula embedded in MUVE environments can help teachers learn how to integrate interactive scientific inquiry into their classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-283
Number of pages19
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Engagement
  • Multi-user virtual environment
  • Scientific inquiry
  • Self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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