Virtually where? Are 3-D virtual worlds such as Second Life having an impact on learning?

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A presentation at the UCISA User Support Conference 2008.

A presentation at the UCISA User Support Conference 2008.

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  • Superb presentation. I feel that you've hit the nail on the head. It's my view that HE institutions invest, publicise and then largely forget about virtual worlds. Often it's down to a few very dedicated innovators, using lots of their own time, to push a SL development forward. The question has always hung over me though, is it ultimately worth the effort? I think that this hasn't been answered by UK HEs yet. The gold probably is with distance education so it's interesting to see the Open University involved in SL Teen and main grid. It'll be a few years, I feel, before people come around to realising its potential fully.
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  • 1. Virtually where? Are 3-D virtual worlds such as Second Life having an impact on learning?
  • 2. Outline
    • a presentation in and of Second Life but intended to apply to virtual worlds more generally
      • some issues to think about
      • Sloodle
      • SL usage in UK HE and FE
      • the wider MUVE environment
      • concluding remarks
  • 3. some issues to think about 1. some issues to think about
  • 4. Orientation can be disorienting
    • high percentage of new users never make it past the SL orientation experience…
    • why?
    • technical issues
    • identity issues
    • coolness issues
    • orientation is confusing
    NMC Orientation:
  • 5. Technical issues…
    • the SL client may require special ports to be open in your firewall
      • are you or your techies willing to do this?
    • the SL client requires a reasonably high end machine (memory, processor, graphics card)
    • a well spec’d gaming machine will give best results
      • can you (or your students) afford this?
  • 6. Identity issues…
    • every avatar has a name
    • but in SL it’s not your real life name
    • suspect that some people feel uncomfortable about this
    • it also means that the teacher has to remember 2 names per student
  • 7. Appearances can be misleading…
    • on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog
    • in SL no one knows you’re a bloke
    • appearance can be changed instantly
    • wings and tails (‘furries’) seem oddly popular!
  • 8. Embodiment
    • some people (students and staff) simply do not “get it”
    • they do not relate to being “in” a virtual world
    • possibly as many as 90% will feel alienated
    • therefore not safe to build pedagogic activities solely around SL
  • 9. Coolness issues…
    • don’t assume that SL will necessarily appeal to a young audience
    • demographics indicate otherwise
    • some ad hoc evidence that value of SL more obvious in ‘distance learning’ scenarios than ‘on campus’
    July 2007 survey of 501 students aged 16 to 18 from across the UK, commissioned by the JISC When discussing Second Life, students felt that games and virtual worlds as part of learning could easily become “tragic” – technology being used for its own sake, and used rather childishly. They would need to understand the educational benefits of virtual worlds or games, it is not enough that they are simply ‘new’.
  • 10. SL is a big “group hug”
    • SL is an open world
    • where all sorts of activities are undertaken
    • mostly good but some bad, e.g. ‘griefing’
    • this probably won’t impinge on your use of SL for teaching
    • but best to be aware of what is out there
  • 11. A world divided
    • one consequence of this is that SL is segregated
    • 14-17 year olds live in Teen SL
    • 18s and over live in SL
    • this divide is exclusive
    • if you teach across both age groups then you’ll have to deal with this – e.g. by replicating work
  • 12. Communication / collaboration
    • multiple modes of in-world communication supported
      • chat
      • IM
      • group IM
      • voice
    • each mode brings with it some issues in terms of usability
  • 13. Pedagogy
    • SL can be used to deliver lectures, but…
    • most suited to “active” learning styles
      • building
      • coding
      • discussion groups
      • machinima
      • drama production
      • role-play
  • 14.  
  • 15.  
  • 16.  
  • 17. Sloodle 2. Sloodle
  • 18. We’re all familiar with this…
    • ‘traditional’ online learning environment
    • sharing documents and learning objects
    • management and tracking
    • discussion
    • coursework submission
    • assessment
  • 19. … but not so much with this?
    • multi-user virtual learning environment
    • relatively informal and open-ended
    • non-obvious goals
    • rich social & technical environment
    • collaborative (but difficult to set object permissions correctly)
  • 20. Sloodle intended as bridge…
    • Second Life as a Moodle client
    • providing better support for in-world learning & teaching
    • Second Life and Moodle as complimentary and integrated learning environments
  • 21. Sloodle tools
    • authentication
    • toolbar
    • chat support
    • blogging
    • glossary
    • drop box
    • quiz tool
    • gestures
  • 22. SL usage in UK HE and FE 3. SL usage in UK HE and FE
  • 23. Use of SL in HE
    • the Eduserv Foundation has funded a series of 4 snapshots - undertaken by John Kirriemuir (Silversprite Helsinki)
    • last one due Sept 2008 - if you have something to contribute, please get in touch
    • 80%+ of UK universities have one or more teams of people developing and/or teaching in SL
      • many academics unaware of SL activity in their institution or departments
      • some academics developing, using SL “under the radar”, self-funding works
  • 24. Use of SL in FE
    • FE use is much lower but there is some out there, e.g.
      • Bromley College (SL: Clive Pro and Skipper Abel)
      • Myerscough College (RL: Gary Elliot)
    • there appear to be some examples of use in schools but this mostly seems to be in collaboration with a university
  • 25. Institutional attitudes
    • from the institution: generally good and supportive
    • from technical support: mostly good, isolated problems, e.g. port access, old PCs
    • from peers: mixed… curious through to hostile
    “ With enthusiasm and imagination by a minority, and with doubt, fear and even derision by the rest…”
  • 26. What academics want…
    • more funding opportunities (but don’t we all?)
    • more time to develop – SL very time consuming to build in
    • better technical facilities within SL, or a viable alternative environment
    • more efficient “land” management
    • some evidence that people are starting to look seriously at alternative virtual worlds
  • 27. The wider MUVE environment 4. the wider MUVE environment
  • 28. Life beyond Second Life
    • SL is one of many virtual worlds
    •, Project Wonderland, Entropia Universe, Active Worlds, OpenCroquet, Metaverse, OpenSIM, HiPiHi, Twinity, …
    • it is not clear that SL is the answer
    • SL client now released as open source software
    • clear demand for server to made OSS also
    • some commitment to this by LL (partly because people are reverse-engineering the server anyway) and working with IBM on OpenSim
  • 29. Some examples…
    • OpenSIM, HiPiHi, Twinity
    • not the only options but chosen because they are all ‘SL-like’ environments
      • open-ended, multi-user – MUVEs, not games
      • modifiable avatars
      • pseudonymous
      • support for building and scripting
      • in-world currency
      • chat, IM and voice for communication
  • 30. OpenSim
    • Open source SL-compatible server – i.e. can use standard SL client to access it
    • alpha release
    • full functionality under dev.
    • easy to install (on PCs) in standalone mode
    • can be run in ‘grid’ mode
    • used as the basis for production environments such as CentralGrid
  • 31. Twinity
    • dedicated client
    • closed beta
    • ~4000 members
    • can use RL names
    • currency (Globals)
    • based in Europe
    • real world geographic metaphor
    • slow and somewhat primitive to use
  • 32. HiPiHi
    • dedicated client
    • based in China
    • only partial translation of user-interface and documentation into English
    • non-intuitive to use (for those used to SL) but some nice features, e.g. built in support for swimming
    • empty but clearly getting new registrations
  • 33. Conclusions
    • SL remains the ‘education’ market leader by far
    • despite all the negativity around SL it remains the best educational MUVE offering
    • but… competition is coming
    • which is good for everyone (except Linden Lab!)
    • it is probably too early (i.e. expensive) for most educational institutions to experiment with other virtual worlds right now
    • most HE SL activity bottom-up rather than top-down – i.e. not embedded in strategy
  • 34. Finding out more
    • SLED list – run by Linden Lab, US-centric but is the main forum for learning-related SL issues
    • (UK)
    • (libraries)
    • in-world UK Educators group (open and free to join)
    • lots of Second Life Facebook groups
    • pointers to other resources on the Linden Lab Second Life Grid education page
  • 35. Questions questions…