Designing online role plays with a focus on story development to support engagement and critical learning for higher education students
Online role plays, as they are designed for use in higher education in Australia and internationally, are active and authentic learning activities (Wills, Leigh & Ip, 2011). In online role plays, students take a character role in developing a story that serves as a metaphor for real-life experience in order to develop a potentially wide range of subject-related and generic learning outcomes. The characteristics of these stories are rarely considered as factors in the design―and success―of these activities. The unspoken cultural assumptions, norms and rules in the stories that impact on the meanings students make from their experiences are also rarely scrutinised in the online role play literature. This paper presents findings from a case study of an asynchronous text-based online role play involving politics and journalism students from three Australian universities. The findings highlight the centrality of students’ collaborative story-building activity to their engagement and learning, including their development of critical perspectives. The study underlines the importance of certain aspects of the role play's design to support students' story-building activity.