A. Crisp

De Montfort University (UNITED KINGDOM)
In her teaching practice, the author noted that a number of vocational students, such as student police officers, had a tendency towards more active ocularcentric learning approaches. This meant that they tended to intellectually ‘switch off’ when faced with more formal methods of teaching engagement. Similarly, the presentation of the results of academic research tended to be poorly received and consequently misunderstood, particularly when associated with the development of public policy and legislation.

More positive engagement and learning experiences for these active learners (Bronwell an Eison 1991) appeared to be associated with simulation processes, including role play, but this did not provide an equitable learning experience for all members of the class.

Brookes and Moseley (2012) suggest that computer based simulation can be one of a number of pervasive learning activities that may help to bridge the ‘reality gap’ between the learning and authentic experience, and whilst in research, criminologists have appeared generally reluctant to use visual tools to develop methodological approaches or present results there additionally appeared to be opportunities to combine avatar simulation with a more visual representation of research. The development of Avatar empathy as described by Morrison and Zemke 2005;de Rosis et al 2005; and Matsumoto and Tokosumi 2005 additionally provides opportunities to engage students at an emotional level not possible in traditional learning procedures. In order to engage with students in a more meaningful way the author has subsequently developed and successfully used in her teaching a series of virtual scenarios. This has provided a more realistic context upon which learning might be developed and research be appreciated, thus helping to bridge the reality gap and better engage learners.

This presentation provides examples from the author’s experience of the use of virtual characters in teaching criminology and associated disciplines and as a method for visual data analysis and the presentation of research results.