Book Reviews

Book by Clark Aldrich
Review by Stephanie Elliott
University Exploration
The Ohio State University

Aldrich’s book presents an excellent introduction to the complex world of online games, simulations and virtual worlds. Many academic advisors know about military strategy games, World of Warcraft, or Second Life, but we might not realize that similar online tools can work for us as advisors and educators. In this book Aldrich presents a clear, concise introduction into these online tools that is easy for anyone with little background in technology or virtual worlds to understand. He is honest about the pitfalls and drawbacks to the use of virtual worlds in the classroom as he provides clear examples how these tools can take student learning to a new level. 

One of the things I really liked about this book is that the author uses non-tech examples to explain how the technology works and can be used as a teaching tool. For example in Chapter Two, Aldrich does an excellent job outlining interactive lesson levels starting with examples of traditional teaching methods and how they translate to online games, sims (simulations), and virtual worlds. Again, this allows readers not as comfortable with technology to understand how technology might be used at each interactive level. 

Aldrich provides a step-by-step guide for the use of sims and virtual worlds in the classroom. He offers an excellent listing of criteria for helping instructors select the type of HIVE (Highly Interactive Virtual Environment) appropriate for their needs and clearly lays out pros and cons of each option. Particularly helpful are his suggestions on how to discuss the benefits of sims or virtual worlds with administrators who might need to be convinced that this is a valid, useful methodology. It is comforting that Aldrich does not advocate the replacement of the traditional classroom with virtual reality; however he recognizes that we must expand our view of education as the profile and needs of our students change. “Increasingly, the most important attribute of virtual environments will be their ability to enable students to collaboratively build complex artifacts. But there is also the need to have students in more traditional classroom settings” (p 65). Aldrich presents the use of virtual tools as a means to change the way we teach to better meet the growing, changing needs of our students. 

Overall, this book may be more useful for faculty than for advisors, but I believe that there are applications for academic advisors who seek to reach our students, including distance learning students, in new ways. As advisors see our student population change, we may find that using a virtual world such as Second Life to set up a virtual advising office may provide a closer simulation to the in-office advising appointment and thus be more effective than email or a phone call. In addition, virtual worlds may be useful tools for student exploration of majors and careers. This book is a definite read for those considering the use of online sims, games, or virtual worlds in their advising practices.

Learning online with games, simulations, and virtual worlds: Strategies for online instruction (2009) Book by Clark Aldrich. Review by Stephanie Elliott. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 144pp., $28.00  ISBN # 978-0-470-43834-3
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