Brian Nelson

Brian NelsonProfessor Brian C. Nelson’s research focuses on the theory, design, and implementation of computer-based learning environments, focusing on immersive games. An instructional designer and learning theorist, he has published and presented extensively on the viability of educational virtual environments for situated inquiry learning and assessment. He was the project designer on the River City Virtual World project through two NSF-funded studies, and is a co-principal investigator on the on-going NSF-funded SAVE Science and SURGE studies. Each of these studies explores the use of computer games to teach and assess science inquiry and content. He was recently co-PI on two MacArthur Foundation grants: 21st Century Assessment, investigating new models for assessment in digital media-based learning environments, and Our Courts, creating and assessing an immersive game to promote civic engagement.


Ed.D., Harvard University, 2005
M.A., Saint Michaels College, 1994
B.A., Washington State University, 1990

Research interests

Learning theory, instructional design, educational technology, game-based learning environments, simulations, multimedia, collaborative learning

Honors and awards

  • Outstanding early career faculty invited speaker at AECT 2010
  • Co-author of invited NAS paper on educational games and simulations, 2009
  • Invited speaker at “Distributed Learning &  Cognition” workshop, 2006.

Key activities

  • Author, “Design for Learning in Virtual Environments”, 2012
  • Treasurer of Advanced Research in Virtual Environments for Learning SIG, American Educational Research Association, 2009-2011
  • Co-editor, special issue of the Journal of Educational Data Mining, 2011