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'Cognitive realism' in online authentic learning environments

, , Edith Cowan University, Australia ; , University of Georgia, United States

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA ISBN 978-1-880094-48-8 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


The development of virtual reality and advanced computer applications have meant that realistic creations of simulated environments are now possible. Such simulations have been used with to great effect in training in the military, air force, and in medical training. But how realistic do problems need to be in education for effective learning to occur? Some authors and researchers argue that problems should be real, or that simulations should have ultra-realistic physical similarity to an actual context. This paper proposes that physical verisimilitude to real situations is of less importance in learning than 'cognitive realism', provided by immersing students in engaging and complex tasks. The paper presents a description of the theory and research that provide the foundations for this approach. Examples of courses employing cognitive, rather than physical, realism will be presented together with the views of teachers, authors and instructional designers.


Herrington, J., Oliver, R. & Reeves, T. (2003). 'Cognitive realism' in online authentic learning environments. In D. Lassner & C. McNaught (Eds.), Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2003--World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 2115-2121). Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved March 24, 2019 from .


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Cited By

  1. Using Authentic Situations and Avatars to Build Knowledge in an E-Learning Environment

    Donna Feledichuk, Portage College/University of Calgary, Canada

    E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2009 (Oct 26, 2009) pp. 254–259

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