Ethics of teaching in immersive virtual worlds (IVWs) Mark Childs email@example.com SL: Gann McGann 052A84
Where are we with IVWs? Demonstrable educational benefit Most effective uses still being determined Still have certain risks involved Questions: What are the risks? How do we limit these risks? What are the ethical implications? Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
Risks to learning Wasting students’ opportunities to learn because it doesn’t work Ability to learn undermined by students not taking it seriously1
Risks to students Social space, therefore potential for griefing Embodiment, therefore self-consciousness and exposure Virtual worlds may be intrinsically deceptive1 Attachment to virtual objects and avatar2
Risks to virtual community Students breaking social conventions Crashing sims
An ethical dilemma You want to run a session in Second Life – looking at the options you’ve decided it’s the best way to do it. However some students are refusing to take part because of reports in the press, others have taken part but do not want to go back because they have been offended. What do you do?
“Please excuse me from the IT session tomorrow. I have thought hard about this idea of virtual travel and experience, and it's not something I am drawn to at all! In fact, I rather think all the opportunities which are available to participants sound rather unhealthy. Personal interaction and real experiences are much more positive.” “the community seems to tend towards the seedy or the disturbing (I once followed round a spawn point by a 'man' with a virtual penis, which is frankly just creepy no matter how liberal or worldly you are)”
Principles informing use No uncritical acceptance of any technology but no automatic gainsaying of any technology Make all “reasonable adjustments” to facilitate inclusion without compromising providing new, engaging and diverse learning experiences Safeguard (HE) students from harm but not legitimise withdrawal due to offence and discomfort
Possible responses Beginning first session with an opportunity to voice objections and analyse these Contest students’ belief that they have a right not to be offended Allowing students to opt out if they can find alternative means to attain learning objectives3 A “walled garden” Making all learning using IVWs optional Ditch the use of IVWs altogether
References Pasquinelli, E. (2010) The Illusion of Reality: Cognitive Aspects and Ethical Drawbacks: The Case of Second Life, in C. Wankel and S. Malleck (eds.) Emerging Ethical issues of Life in Virtual Worlds, North Carolina: Information Age Pubishing, 197 – 216 Grimes, J.M., Fleischmann, K.R., and Jaeger, P.T. (2010) Research Ethics and Virtual Worlds in C. Wankel and S. Malleck (eds.) Emerging Ethical issues of Life in Virtual Worlds, North Carolina: Information Age Pubishing, 73 – 100 Frances Deepwell (2010) Personal communication