Dissertation: MMORPGs in Education

Mark Wagner completed his Ph.D. in Educational Technology at Walden University in May 2008. His research began in the summer of 2003, and this study was conducted in the winter of 2007-2008. This page was created to share the results of the study. Feel free to contact Mark if you have questions about this research.

To read more about the process of writing this dissertation, including many early drafts, peruse the Dissertation category on this blog.

Full Text

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games As Constructivist Learning Environments in K-12 Education: A Delphi Study (1.1 MB PDF)


Despite a wide variety of research about videogames and learning, few studies have focused on the potential uses of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) in formal K-12 education. This study investigated the potential benefits and problems of using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments. Two pillars of study supported this effort: constructivist learning theory and digital game-based learning theory. The study employed a social constructivist paradigm of qualitative research and the Delphi method of inquiry. Three qualitative survey rounds and one quantitative final consensus check were conducted. The Delphi panel consisted of 12 experts, including academic researchers, educators experienced using videogames with students, and professional game developers. A content analysis of the data revealed a high degree of consensus among the panelists around several important potential benefits, including the predictions that MMORPGs may help students develop difficult to teach 21st Century skills and may be used to support student reflection. In addition, the panel predicted many significant challenges related to implementing the games, particularly with respect to infrastructure and logistics. It is recommended that educators begin by repurposing commercial off the shelf MMORPGs, and that developers begin designing explicitly educational MMORPGs. Social change implications of this study may include helping students learn about other cultures, changing students’ attitudes, facilitating a greater degree of equity between students, being accessible to students with disabilities and students in remote locations, and supporting constructivist pedagogy in a powerful new medium.


This dissertation is dedicated to my wife, Eva, whose support made my research possible, and to my son, Clark, who was born the day after I finished collecting data.


My wife, Eva, made the greatest sacrifices in support of this work and she has my deepest gratitude. I’m also thankful for my family and friends who understood when I had so little time and attention to share. In addition, I’m grateful to my coworkers who supported my efforts when I worked at Estancia High School, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, and the Orange County Department of Education. Over the past two years, many of my clients, too, have been understanding and helpful, and I thank them for their support. Naturally, I acknowledge the contributions of my professors at Walden University, and of my previous teachers at National University, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and each of the schools I attended during my own K-12 experience. In particular I wish to thank Dr. Jock Schorger, who was my mentor at Walden University for nearly four years, and Dr. Joseph Nolan, who expanded his role on my dissertation committee to include those of chair and mentor, and who worked hard to help me complete this daunting project as quickly as possible. I am similarly thankful to the ever-responsive Dr. Jose Quiles and Dr. MaryFriend Shepard, who also contributed countless hours in their efforts as committee members. Finally, I would like to thank the many volunteers who contributed to this study: those who participated in the study; those who served as my devil’s advocate, peer debriefer, and external auditor; and those in my online personal learning network who volunteered their time to help when I needed it. This research would not have been possible without their generosity.

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