Getting started on my dissertation: MMORPGs for Second Language Acquisition

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Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games with Strategic Activities to Improve Grammar, Listening, Reading, & Vocabulary 

My dissertation will investigate the use of a noneducational, massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), EverQuest II (EQ2), as a second language acquisition (SLA) tool for English.  This study will measure the effectiveness of using MMORPGs to increase the SLA of general English as a second language (ESL) skills and vocabulary. It will replicate and extend a study by Rankin, Gold, and Gooch (2006) that only had four college-aged intermediate/advanced level English language learners (ELLs) in which they reported that participants improved their English language vocabulary by 40% from solely playing EQ2 for four hours a week for a month without instructional supports.  I will use mixed methods to produce a more robust understanding of the phenomenon of gaming for SLA.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the proposed study is to determine whether college-aged ELLs can improve their ESL skills in a short amount of time from playing commercial MMORPGs as an extracurricular activity without language supports. Rankin et al. (2006) found there was sufficient support for ELLs within the EQ2 videogame; this is why I have chosen it for my study. EQ2 provides opportunities for the participants to select an avatar (character) to speak to other players’ avatars through text-based chats or in-game speech capabilities.  Player characters sometimes form alliances to collaborate on a task. The non-player characters verbalize the rules and alerts to players. This and other embedded support systems (e.g., rules, signage, animation, audible alarms) provide ELLs with guidance and model language.  For example, the components in EQ2 are labeled, which serves as a written English language support mechanism. This means participants will do a lot of reading and will need to understand the vocabulary in order to play the game.

A special thanks to Dr. Burke Johnson for getting me started on my dissertation in his course this semester (Advanced Research Design).

Note: This was updated 12/31/15, as I write my dissertation proposal for spring semester.

See my PowerPoint presentation on MMORGs for Language Learning that I presented at SITE 2014 in Jacksonville, FL.

Here’s a live presentation on the topic at the 7th Virtual Round Table.

Your blogger,

Sandra Rogers