Murphrey, T. P., Rutherford, T. A., Doerfert, D. L., Edgar, L. D., & Edgar, D. W. (2014). An Examination of Usability of a Virtual Environment for Students Enrolled in a College of Agriculture. Journal of Agricultural Education, 55(4), 38-52. doi: 10.5032/jae.2014.04038



Educational technology continues to expand with multi-user virtual environments (e.g., Second Life™) being the latest technology. Understanding a virtual environment's usability can enhance educational planning and effective use. Usability includes the interaction quality between an individual and the item being assessed. The purpose was to assess the usability of "AgriCulture Island" in Second Life™ to identify possible issues, understand of the severity of these issues, and how they could be effectively addressed in order to use Second Life™ as a teaching tool. The framework allowed the identification of constructs that further defined usability related to assessing a virtual environment. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed including pre/post questionnaires, observations, and a focus group session. The study engaged 12 participants during summer 2012 from a college of agriculture. Findings revealed that participants accepted Second Life™ more after initial exposure. Additionally, participants indicated the experience felt "real" and they could sense others in the environment. Observation data provided a picture of participant interaction with the virtual environment. Elements documented were assistance needs, satisfaction, confusion, and deviation from task. The importance of understanding educational technology usability cannot be underestimated. This study adds to the educational technology literature and provides recommendations for use.

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