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Opening Up Access In Games, Simulations and Virtual Worlds
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Opening Up Access In Games, Simulations and Virtual Worlds


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Computer games, simulations and virtual worlds are making increasing inroads into academic education and corporate training. This is often fuelled by a desire to improve engagement, or to immerse …

Computer games, simulations and virtual worlds are making increasing inroads into academic education and corporate training. This is often fuelled by a desire to improve engagement, or to immerse learning in realistic simulated settings, but often limited by economics and resources. Open Education initiatives hint at solutions, but there are some particular challenges in opening access to virtual world, game and simulation educational resources.

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  • This presentation was given at SJSU SLIS on Wednesday the 21 st of October, as part of Open Access Week 2009. I note that within the School, the part time faculty: Includes Meredith Farkas,who has the Information wants to be free blog and Elyssa Kroski, who is currently teaching a course on OER and libraries. … so some individuals here probably have more expertise than I have on open education! In the opening sections where I introduce OER my main goal will be to outline some of the basics without making too many mistakes! This talk title deliberately inspired by the book “Opening Up Education”, available online free from MIT Press: This presentation is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Licence
  • Open Education is known under a range of names and covers a range of different things. Three main elements: Course Content Everythng from open syllabi/course outlines to complete video courses with supplementary notes. Course Designs LAMS allows the capture of lesson plans and activities – with LAMS it is possible to share complete lesson plans which combine online and offline activities, content and student discussion and activities Technologies to support Open Education Also worth noting current moves towards open research OpenNotebook; OpenHardware
  • OpenCourseWare – Over 200 institutions providing OER, including MIT - OpenLearn – From Open University in the UK) - Merlot – Long established database of free online materials for teaching and learning - OpenLearningInitiative (Carnegie Mellon) - Connexions (Online space for creating and sharing OER) - Wikiversity (WikiMedia Foundation) - Open Education Resources (overall banner) Jorum – UK repository - Opened (Creative Commons) - OER Commons – search for OER materials - CcLearn (Creative Commons) -
  • Sample WikiVersity course. Some areas are better served than others – there is, for example, a lot of Computer Science and Software Engineering content. Courses – including student activities – all tend to be presented in the familiar wiki format. This is not really the most engaging form – compares poorly against video lectures on e.g. iTunes U or YouTube Edu
  • OER Commons provides a search interface to find OER. Can limit search by school sector (Middle School, High School, Post Secondary...), by subject area and by reuse permissions attached to the materials
  • So what is Open? It implies some degree of freedom, in a practical sense freedoms might involve the freedom to use a resource (with or without the ability to take a local copy), freedom to edit or remix, freedom to distribute/share. Some OER even allow the freedom to reuse the material within commercial courseware – but often with the 'Share Alike' restriction. With this a company might use the material is a premium print product, but has to ensure the material remains available online for free. The most common restriction on use is probably 'attribution' – you need to credit the original authors of a work. A good summary of the most common licenses for OER is available at the top of
  • There was a good discussion over these questions. Few people were actively using OER. Common reasons were: - Lack of awareness of existence of resources - Poor fit with taught course - Already have bank of materials - Difficulty in finding useful OER An easy way to start incorporating OER is to add relevant resources to your recommended reading list. Or find introductory materials that students can use for revision when they start your course. Few people were contributing OER - Lack of time, money, support: Perceived that it is time intensive to create OER, and there is no direct reward or benefit in doing this - I am currently working on OER version of one of my own courses. Trying to do this as I update the course, to minimise the extra effort involved. - Will this boost my own credentials with University? With students? Will it help promote the university brand.
  • MIT Example from Opening Up Education, Chapter 14: A lot of factors involved in MITs decision to release their materials under a creative commons licence. Having technical and publishing support to minimise the effort required in preparing materials helps; Marketing research determined that there was no simple way of monetising the materials & that efforts to create large distance learning programs might not succeed and were not in staff interests. Having an $11Million grant for the initial trial probably helped a little too!
  • Reasons for using OER should be clear - provide additional resources for students to support learning - save faculty time in preparing materials; more time to support students For creating? Promote institutional brand Promote your own courses – evidence from MIT and Open University is that their OER resources and sites are attracting students to sign up for full courses. Make it serve your own career – promote your own academic credentials, your own teaching credentials. Will your current department recognise this? Will your next? Reuse your own materials over years Go and get funding – there is funding available from a number of bodies to support the creation of OER. Some are very large fund for institutional bids, others support smaller projects & may be effective in supporting individuals in open sourcing their own materials.
  • Additional funds for OER pledged by the Obama administration. Many states have provision or proposals along similar grounds (with long term aim of saving money on purchasing materials)
  • This is only the briefest of summaries. The recommend texts expand considerably on this, and there has been a LOT published in recent years on the use of games and simulations in education.
  • Business simulations, and wargame sims have a long history – long before computers. The journal 'Simulation and Gaming' is over 30 years old. Making a clear distinction between a simulation and an educational game is not always straight-forward. Sims can vary from very restricted sims that capture only very tightly scoped aspects of reality to more complete simulations of complex systems. From individual spring simulations to simulations of complete economies. Lemonade stand to SimCity The original SimCity is now available to play online for free -
  • Interactive simulation from the University of Colorado at Boulder. These tend to be very tightly scoped, but cover a wide range of systems in STEM subjects. Note that these free and reusable simulations have been funded by the Hewlett Foundation, the NSF and others. You can download the complete website or individual sims for local installation. License terms are either Creative Commons Attribution or GPL – and source code is available. Commercial reuse is allowed.
  • ActonSims More entertaining mini-game simulations. The Lemonade Stand of today? Free to use (with registration), but not available for download or copying
  • Much more complete and detailed simulation – a complete high-fidelity submarine. Not free to use, not even available – this was work for a client and used for naval training.
  • Games tend to have a greater emphasis on being entertaining. Again, the line between sim and game can be narrow and sometimes not at all clear.
  • An opportunity to mention the work of some of my friends – Derek Robertson and Ollie Bray at Learning Teaching Scotland. Derek has been pioneering game-based learning in Scottish schools for a few years now, and is now an in demand speaker internationally. While their work does include some educational games (e.g. using Dr Kawashima's Brain Training to support arithmetic development), many projects use non-educational games as a focus to engage students in a more traditional curriculum – e.g. cross-curricula projects centred round 'Guitar Hero' Good Derek Robertson interview here:
  • Increasingly commercial – and successful – games have elements of education and training. Rome Total War has a lot of accurate historical detail relating to Roman armies, opponents and historical campaigns; Buzz: The Schools Quiz is commercially available for PS2 and features questions which relate directly to the National Curriculum for England and Wales, Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11)
  • America's Army is actually developed as a promotional tool rather than a training tool – but there is a lot that can be learned on Army procedures and methods. Derivatives of the game were also developed to address Army training needs more directly.
  • Re-Mission is an unusual example – the game play appears to be more inspirational than educational. Players (intended for young people with cancer) travel through the body zapping cancer cells. Despite what appears to be unrelated game play, trials found the game to improve cancer related knowledge More importantly, the game helped improve adherence to programs for self-administered medications:
  • This shows the Metaplace virtualworld running inside a Moodle LMS homepage
  • Theatron project in Second Life. This project has created a library of recreations of classical and important historical theatres in Second Life – these are a resource for studying the history of theatre and also for set design and related subjects.
  • Sylvia Martinez on Generation Yes blog has written a few times about the effect of the costs, and the limited market size for education software. A successful commercial game will quickly sell more copies than there are teachers in the US.
  • If a game is not going to be used by a large number of learners over several years, the development costs may be prohibitive
  • Even where source and assets are available, it is likely simply too expensive and impractical to expect others to remix and reuse the game in different contexts... Although there are banks of creative commons and open source assets and code that can help produce games, and perhaps if there were more of these, better assets and better searchability then we might see some of the costs come down. To really work this might require a common gaming platform. Arden and Revolution are both NWN mods – and require that you buy NWN first (PC only?) - only £5 per machine, but still, not truly free. Arden also allows the assets to be used in generating new NWN mods... but to be able to use these requires considerable time and some skill to create new educational content of value/interest Commercial mods also available:
  • Especially popular/cheap where faculty treat SL as part hobby – extra time to learn how to build/develop content, and then time to develop that content. Community is key – help with developing content, finding content, reusing content. Second Life has a large community and a very active mailing list, many wikis etc. Mailing list: Before you sign up: Beware – this is a VERY high volume list
  • People often under-report the costs of development in Second Life – reporting only the money spent, and not properly accounting for time input in development. Taking time into account, costs can escalate dramatically. Under-reporting in part due to early adopters treating SL partly as a hobby. Possible to use student created content – this drives down costs, generally not as high quality as bespoke content creation from professional consultants and developers.
  • There is a permission system built into Second Life – this can be thought of as a form of Digital Rights Management. Creators can give away or sell their creations, and allow (or disallow) the new owner to: - create multiple copies of the item - make changes to the item - give the item to someone else Additional policies from Linden Lab address the right to copy items out of Second Life – but these are not enforced with software. As with additonal terms relating to reuse, these require Terms of Use to be distributed with the object.
  • Scottish Inventions Library was a student project. Was available for 'free use' by any visitor wishing to visit, and contained a range of exhibits relating to Scottish inventions and inventors – including original 3D models. BUT students did not provide full permission copies of their objects, and space was cleared for subsequent student projects. An example of free OER in SL that no longer exists – there are many similar (and more famous!) resources in SL that could cease to exist at any time.
  • Web based e-commerce for Second Life. Around 10,000 items in the 'Free' category – these items cost either 0L$ (Linden dollars) or 1L$ - a tiny fraction of a cent. Some are full permission, but not all.
  • CliVE island includes tools for cataloguing free resources in SL, and is linked to the Merlot project
  • JISC Otter project This includes making resources available in SL as OER as part of project – but few details of what this entails other than making objects available for free. Most of the project is not directly related to SL.
  • Tools for copying items from Second Life to local disk.
  • How to attach a license to objects in SL – usually via notecards
  • Packaging larger packs of content Turing content into cartridges (zip files?) that can be unpacked and installed anywhere (SL, OpenSim) Content that integrates with LMS
  • Transcript

    • 1. Opening up Education in Games, Simulations and Virtual Worlds Daniel Livingstone University of the West of Scotland
    • 2. Open Education OpenCourseWare Open Education Resources Content Syllabi, Notes, Lectures, Podcasts, Video, Quiz Banks, Games, RLOs Designs LAMS Technologies
    • 3.  
    • 4.  
    • 5.  
    • 6. Open? Free... to use to edit/re-mix? to share with others? to use in commercial courseware? Additional Restrictions attribution
    • 7. Why bother with Open Education? Why use OER? Why create OER?
    • 8. How To: A Famous Example Tutor buy in Tradition of sharing, openness Senior Management Support Market Research Technical Support $11 Million Dollars
    • 9. No funding? Use OER – save your time and money If there is no prospect of large institutional program then why produce your own? Funding and research opportunities?
    • 10. American Graduation Initiative US$500 Million for the creation of OER “ an open-source, easily accessible system of robust courses will produce the most profound equalization of access to cutting-edge knowledge and information since the creation of the public library.” Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education), Politico, 1 st October
    • 11. Games and Simulations Engage students Learn by doing Structured learning experiences Incremental challenges - “ Frustration and Resolution” - “Pleasantly Frustrating” What Video Games Have to Tell us About Learning, Gee, 2003 Learning By Doing, Aldrich, 2005 Epistemic Games, Schaeffer
    • 12. Simulations
      • Recreate real world systems or situations
      • Single user (usually)
      • STEM simulations
        • e.g. Mechanics (gravity, springs, …)
      • Social Sims
        • Management, Business
      • Education specific and game oriented sims (Lemonade Stand, SimCity Online)
    • 13.  
    • 14.  
    • 15.  
    • 16. Games Put educational content in a game framework Challenges Rewards Missions / Quests Raise the challenge over time Informal learning in non-educational games
    • 17.  
    • 18.  
    • 19.  
    • 20.  
    • 21. Virtual Worlds Multi-user online places Often massively multi-user Looks like a computer game Some are! Some allow users to create their own content Including educators!
    • 22.  
    • 23. Second Life
    • 24. Economics How much does it cost to create an educational game or simulation? Can we afford to produce educational OER games and virtual worlds as a sustainable activity?
    • 25. Economics of Games Commercial console game: US$10 Million+ Education game: America's Army: $7.5M, $12M, ? More typical?: $100,000+ Alternatives? 'Modding' - Can still be expensive
    • 26. GameSpace SQA Basic skills National roll-out (Scotland) Expected life: 3+ years Development costs: 3-6 months, 4 staff
    • 27. Are games open? Free... to use to edit/re-mix? to share with others? to use in commercial courseware? Additional Restrictions Do I need to buy something else first? Will it run on my machine?
    • 28. Bespoke Virtual Worlds Platforms: Forterra OLIVE, VastPark, Thinking Worlds, … Generate your own bespoke VW Costs in-line with game development
    • 29. Second Life Free client Cheap to use during evaluation (Can be) cheap to develop new content Can build on existing content easily Community
    • 30. OpenSim Open source server software Compatible (largely) with SL client Host yourself ...or 3 rd party host Similar surface experience
    • 31. Economics of Second Life Bespoke content created by consultants Reduced rates for educators Content created by faculty and students Quality? Time? 3 rd Party bought in content Costs: $1000 - $10,000+ True costs?
    • 32. Second Life Permissions Hard coded: Copy Modify Transfer Additional: Copy out of Second Life
    • 33.  
    • 34.  
    • 35.  
    • 36.  
    • 37. Second Life Backups Tools to copy items out of Second Life Second Inventory CopyBot BuilderBot Meerkat Viewer Compliance with Linden Lab policy?
    • 38. OpenSim Backups OAR Files OpenSim Archive XML file format Can backup/restore complete sims
    • 39. Is a SL resource open? Free... to use to edit/re-mix? to share with others? to use in commercial courseware? Additional Restrictions Can I copy this to OpenSim? Are scripts published online?
    • 40. From OER to RLO Reusable Learning Objects Content Metadata Standards SCORM, IMS LD, AICC, LAMS Packaging Interoperability with LMS Repositories
    • 41. Virtual World RLOs Content In-world, OAR, XML Metadata Merlot Repositories Merlot, JORUM Interoperability SLOODLE Packaging ?
    • 42. Opening Up Education in Virtual Worlds Growing OER movement Growth in interest in VW OER Missing Standards What is a VW OER? Technical Standards Missing Tools