Enhancing Online Student Engagement: What Can Be Achieved with the Power of 3D Spaces and Technologies?

Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

This interactive session introduces how 3D spaces and technologies (e.g. H5P and Mozilla Hubs) are used to create enjoyable and authentic online learning experiences, such as an academic poster conference, virtual language lab, and 3D computer assembly workshop to promote student interactions and motivation.


Additional Authors

I work in the Educational Development Unit (EDU) at the XJTLU Academy of Future Education and support our academic community with technological innovation in their curricula and pedagogy. I’m primarily interested in the use of natural language processing, machine learning, and modern web applications in higher education.

Extended Abstract

In this interactive session, the presenters will discuss how virtual online 3D spaces and technologies have been used in various scenarios to enhance teaching and learning at an English-medium transnational university in China. Active student engagement is a fundamental component of student learning, particularly in distance education, where students can often become frustrated and detached from their online courses. Dixson (2015) defines student engagement as the degree to which students actively participate by “thinking, talking, and interacting with the content of a course, the other students in the course, and the instructor”. It is thus a crucial factor in maintaining a close connection to their university education and correspondingly to their overall learning and development. In addition, feelings of anxiety and isolation among students have been identified as a major challenge for online learning experiences (Yuan & Kim, 2014). The need to mitigate these feelings and foster a more engaging online learning environment has become ever more important due to the impact of the pandemic (Rizvi & Nabi, 2021).


The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework identifies three elements needed to construct an engaging online learning experience: cognitive presence (CP), social presence (SP), and teaching presence (TP) (Garrison et al., 1999). The use of virtual online 3D spaces and metaverse technologies can enhance all three of these core elements by constructing authentic spaces for students to interact and engage with peers, instructors, and learning content. Gamification concepts such as avatars and 3D characters can represent students’ genuine social presence. They are able to communicate with the instructor and one another through audio and text-based chat with emojis (Reisoğlu et al., 2017) in a manner that resembles online multiplayer role-playing games. Multimedia resources such as images, audio, and video can easily be added to enhance the space and allow students to locate and interact with the digital object. By allowing students to locate and interact with digital objects and one another, they are helped to feel more empowered in the learning process and thus enhance their motivation and fulfilment.


The structure of the session will be as follows. The presenters will first introduce the context of this project. Next, a brief showcase of the three examples will be provided: a 3D academic poster conference using H5P, an online language lab in Mozilla Hubs, and a virtual demonstration of computer architecture and assembly with a PC Building Simulator. Lessons learned and practical tips will be shared to help participants adopt this approach to their context. Finally, participants will be provided with links to these 3D spaces so they can interact with the environments and experience how they have been used in real-world scenarios to engage students in online university education.


The key takeaways of this session are:

  1. Learn how 3D spaces can be used for various teaching and learning scenarios to enhance online student engagement,
  2. Discover a range of technologies that can be used to construct 3D spaces for learning and teaching purposes,
  3. Identify a few strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of these spaces