Assessment for Learning in Immersive Virtual Environments (ALIVE)

Current assessment approaches are inadequate at identifying how students develop critical thinking, problem solving, and sophisticated scientific reasoning – key 21st century skills. Feedback is one of the most powerful means to increase student learning. Feedback from formative assessments, or assessment for learning, carried out during instruction can be used to help teachers tailor instruction and aid in deepening students’ understanding, further enabling students to self-regulate their learning. Research clearly illustrates that the shorter the time interval between teachers’ eliciting the feedback and using it to improve instruction, as well as for the students to use it to improve their learning, the greater the impact on learning. Without the aid of technology, teachers’ ability to provide this type of feedback on a regular, timely basis is extremely limited. Computer-based assessments (CBAs) have various advantages, such as the possibility of providing more timely feedback, automated scoring, and higher efficiency. CBAs implemented in three-dimensional immersive virtual environments (3DIVEs), environments similar to video games, have been shown to be very effective for assessing student science inquiry in summative assessments. To the best of our knowledge, there are no published studies looking at formative assessment of science inquiry and problem solving through the use of 3DIVEs – a fact this project aims to alleviate.

The Assessment for Learning in Immersive Virtual Environments (ALIVE) project is a research program that examines how 3DIVEs enable student success through the provision of feedback while students are immersed in a real-world science inquiry investigation, addressing one of SSHRCs future challenges by examining new ways of learning and identifying roles emerging and disruptive technologies play in learning for individuals. This project builds upon our previous research in immersive technologies for the summative assessment of science inquiry learning conducted at Harvard University and our research in the areas of learner agency, self-efficacy, and self-regulated learning in video game environments. This project will integrate and extend this work by exploring the use of 3DIVEs as a means to provide feedback through the formative assessment of inquiry reasoning in the context of middle school life science. Key research questions that will guide this two-year project investigates ways that the 3DIVE technology and log-file data, designed around a model of science inquiry, enables individual students to utilize feedback, and whether and how this affects their agency for learning (goal setting, motivation, self-regulation, and self-efficacy), and academic achievement.

Falling Skies! (Prototype)

Jillianne Code, PhD

Principal Investigator
Nick Zap

Nick Zap, PhD

Rachel Ralph

Rachel Ralph, PhD

Kieran Forde

Kieran Forde, PhD Candidate

Research Assistant

Made possible with funding from



Code, J; Tasabehji, Z; Lutrin, A; Moylan, R; Forde, K; Donnelly, E; Mehta, A; Ralph, R; Zap, N

Navigating neurons: A journey through middle school cognition via game-based science inquiry Proceedings


Abstract | BibTeX


Code, J.; Forde, K.; Ralph, R.; Zap, N.; Mehta, A.; Chang, C.; Wei, Z.; Hu, L.; Wang, S.; Wu, B.

Evidence-centred game design in assessment for learning in immersive virtual environments Proceedings Article

In: 2023.


Code, J; Forde, K; Ralph, R; Zap, N; Mehta, A; Chang, C; Wei, Z; Hu, L; Wang, S; Wu, B

Assessment for learning in immersive virtual environments: An evidence-centred game design Proceedings Article

In: American Educational Research Association 2023.



Code, J; Forde, K; Petrina, S; Ralph, R; Zhao, J

Designerly ways, means, and ends: From STEM to STEAM to STEAMD Proceedings

STEM2021 International Conference Vancouver, Canada, 2021.

Abstract | BibTeX

Code, J; Forde, K; Ralph, R; Zap, N

Assessment for learning in immersive and virtual environments: Evidence-centered game design in STEM Proceedings

STEM2021 International Conference Vancouver, Canada, 2021.

Abstract | BibTeX


Code, J; Zap, N

Assessment in immersive virtual environments: Cases for learning, of learning, and as learning Journal Article

In: Journal of Interactive Learning Research, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 235-248, 2017.


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