Came across the article, Virtual Swords to Ploughshares, today. Researchers at Duke University have partnered with area company, Virtual Heroes, to create a virtual world/simulation in which students practice skills in diplomacy and crisis response. The program is called Virtual Peace. The scenario in this game-based environment was designed by educators from the Duke-UNC Rotary Center for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution and resembles Central America following hurricane Mitch. Students work in teams to decide how they’ll distribute relief funds and deal with unexpected crises, often generated on-the-fly by their instructors who monitor the virtual environment as the game takes place.
Students participating in this scenario don’t even have to be in the same physical location. The design, very similar to an MMO such as World of Warcraft, allows student players from all over the world, to work collaboratively.
It’s promising to see researchers and designers leveraging the power of MMO-like environments for educational purposes.