Call for Manuscripts: Learning and Identity in Virtual Learning Environments

Guest editors
Aroutis Foster & Mamta Shah
Drexel University

The Journal of Experimental Education

This special issue of The Journal of Experimental Education seeks to provide education scholars with insight into current theoretical and methodological approaches to conceptualize, facilitate, and empirically examine learning and identity in virtual learning environments (VLEs) such as games, virtual realities, and simulations. In recent years, increasing research has shown virtual learning environments to provide effective contexts for learning and identity exploration through students’ enactment of player roles (Barab et al., 2010; Foster, 2011; Khan, 2012; Kafai et al., 2010; Shaffer, Nash & Ruis, 2015). From a situative perspective on learning and identity, digital games and virtual worlds support transformation of game-players’ knowledge and self through participation in the gaming activity that involves the whole person in a dynamic individual-environment interaction (Barab, Bransford, Greeno, & Gee, 2007; Shah, Foster, & Barany, 2017). However, this domain is still in its infancy and requires research for developing theories of the learning and identity mechanisms occurring in VLEs, evidence-based measurement of these processes, and design principles for virtual learning environments and experiences that promote learners’ knowledge, identity processes, and career paths.This special issue seeks to bring together empirical examples of conceptually, methodologically, and analytically well-grounded research to illustrate the learning and identity processes, characteristics, and outcomes that VLEs can facilitate. For this special issue, the guest editors define learning and identity in VLEs as the process by which a person engaging in digital gameplay or virtual environment enacts an activity-based identity with the potential to modify the person’s learning and identity in this and other domains (Foster, 2014). Accepted manuscripts will illuminate characteristics of VLEs that provide learning and identity change opportunities, explicate learning and identity development within VLEs, and/or demonstrate the role of educators and contexts in supporting learning and identity change in VLEs.

Content Criteria for Submission
The Journal of Experimental Education (JXE) invites empirical manuscripts for the special issue that address one or more of the journal’s areas of (1) Learning, Instruction and Cognition; (2) Motivation and Social Processes; and (3) Measurement, Statistics, and Research Design. The goal of this special issue is to showcase a wide range of theoretical underpinnings and empirical inquiries that can advance the burgeoning field of learning and identity in VLEs. Manuscripts may propose and demonstrate an emerging theoretical conception of learning and identity in VLE, build upon existing frameworks for examining learning and identity in VLEs, and/or illustrate emerging and established ways of examining learning and identity in VLEs. Authors should consider their proposed contribution along dimensions of an ecological approach to learning and identity in VLEs (Foster, 2014), including, but not limited to, the consideration of the following questions:

  • ‘How’ are the processes of learning and identity exploration conceptualized?
  • ‘What’ cognitive, pedagogical, and social processes are involved in learning and identity exploration in virtual environments?
  • ‘Who’ are the learners, in terms of biological, social, cognitive, experiential, and affective characteristics?
  • ‘Where’ in these environments is the learning and identity exploration taking place?
  • ‘Which’ academic and professional domains facilitate learning and identity exploration?
  • ‘When’ in the process do learners undergo meaningful transformations in knowledge structures and identities?
  • How can learning and identity exploration of diverse students in variety of virtual environments be assessed?

Criteria for empirical research for this special issue correspond to those for regular JXE submissions, and include diverse methodologies, units-of-analysis, and scopes (e.g., may include detailed report of case studies, simulations, or illustrations), but must have a strong conceptual orientation. Consideration for inclusion in the special issue will involve evaluation of substantive sophistication and contribution, theoretical grounding of the topic, a clear alignment among the framework, method, analysis, and results from a learning and identity in VLEs perspective, and a strong rationale for a fit with the special issue. Excellent submissions that will not be included in the special issue may be considered for publication in JXE through the regular submission process.

Timeline and Submission/Review Process
May 11, 2018 – Authors should submit a one-page summary that provides a brief description of the topic and how the intended submission addresses learning and identity in virtual learning environments within one or more of the three main emphasis areas of JXE: Learning, Instruction, and Cognition; Motivation and Social Processes; or Measurement, Statistics, and Research Design. Summaries and questions should be submitted via email to Mamta Shah at The guest editors will respond to all summary submissions. Authors of selected summaries will be invited to submit complete manuscripts for a double-blind peer-review.

January 11, 2019 – Complete original manuscripts will be due to be submitted on the Journal’s online submission system. Authors should comply with all submission criteria. In the cover letter, authors should include a statement that the manuscript is intended for submission to the special issue and to which section of the journal (Learning, Instruction, and Cognition; Motivation and Social Processes; and Measurement, Statistics, and Research Design) their work best applies.

April 12, 2019 – The editors will provide authors feedback and decisions regarding the acceptance, request for revision, or the rejection of their manuscripts. Authors asked to revise their manuscript would be required to provide a revision within 90 days for inclusion in the special issue.

Manuscripts are expected to be published online during 2019 and the print special issue is expected to be published early in 2020.