Student Research Feature: Michael MacKay

Photo of graduand, Michael MacKay.

The Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program would like to extend a warm congratulations to Michael MacKay who successfully defended his thesis entitled: Seeing all the facts you have learned: the lived learning experience of students in a pedagogically-focused virtual reality experience. We asked Michael to summarize his work for this blog post and he shared the following:

“The increased availability of virtual reality has led to various educational applications. Yet, how we evaluate and construct these applications are often rooted in educational paradigms that do not facilitate learning in immersive virtual environments. My thesis attempted to create a foundational understanding of learning in virtually induced environments through qualitatively examining the learner. This approach, dubbed experiential virtual learning, relied on the careful marriage of the virtual space with the learning objective. The inclusion or exclusion of different actors, entities, and interactions established the bounds for learning, removing the need for the educator to create artificial delimiting strategies, such as restricting inquiry. Participants expressed a profound sense of control and freedom over their learning despite being confined by the preprogrammed interactions in the virtual space.

I also examined the possible role of experiential virtual learning in the current K-12 system. In doing so I found that over-reliance on symbolic knowledge or facts as the sole metric of learner performance has led to the sterilization of learning and, subsequently, the disconnection of learning from the learning context. Therefore, I propose that the application of experiential virtual learning could act as a desterilizing event that recontextualizes the objective and allows learners to connect with their learning."

You can see more here Pedagogy and Virtual Reality: Seeing All The Facts You Learned and read his final thesis here.” Michael’s thesis was recognized “with distinction” by his committee and we are grateful to his thesis supervisor, Dr. Irwin DeVries, for supporting his thesis work.

We wish you all the very best in your next endeavours Michael and can’t wait to see where your MA in Learning and Technology takes you next!