From snapshots to Virtual World Watch

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From snapshots to Virtual World Watch

  1. 1. From snapshots to Virtual World Watch
  2. 2. The snapshots  Funded by the Eduserv Foundation.  Four so far: - June 2007 - September 2007 - May 2008 - October 2008  Strictly covering UK university and college activities only.  Started off being solely about Second Life use.  Lately moving into Second Life and other worlds.  Getting unwieldy; format may need to change.
  3. 3. Things that have changed
  4. 4. Number of users, institutions increasing  First snapshot survey (June 2007) found 41 instances of Second Life use in UK HE/FE.  By May 2008, some form of Second Life activity detected in 75%+ of UK universities.  In many cases, multiple Second Life activities in the same institution.
  5. 5. Lots more funding (now) Originally, most development work self-funded i.e. in own time of academic. Now there are multiple sources. Last snapshot:  Internal i.e. from Pro-Vice Chancellor, centrally, or multi-department.  “Hardcore research” funders e.g. Leverhulme Trust.  JISC (funds several projects).  European funding.  Eduserv Foundation.  HEA, AHRC, BECTA etc.
  6. 6. Teaching and learning in SL  Number of instances increasing.  Class sizes vary up to thirty.  Usually heavily participatory in terms of communication.  Most students reported as taking to it; a few have problems with the concept. But:  Not everyone is evaluating effectiveness.  No predominant method of measuring this.
  7. 7. Increasing acceptance Academics report less negative responses of late from:  Peers (other lecturers and researchers).  Students. This is due to:  More people knowing about Second Life.  2nd year of teaching and learning use (no longer a 'gimmick').  Anything that brings in research money into an institution becomes more popular there :-)
  8. 8. Things that have stayed the same
  9. 9. No dominant reason for SL activity  Building a representation of the university (a cause of contention with some).  Researching the use of virtual worlds in education.  Teaching.  Marketing the university, and income generation through alumni.  Holding seminars.  Remote teaching (one to many).  Remote supervision of PhD students.  Student design and development skills acquisition.  Roleplay for practical, social, medical skills.
  10. 10. Hardcore of sceptics Always have been with us ... ... and probably always will be with us.  Open-minded sceptics (academic approach: “Convince me”) are useful; challenges users of virtual worlds for proof.  Closed-minded sceptics add nothing to academic debate; often sceptical for seemingly personal reasons. “Some people are bizarrely hostile to it, for no particularly good reason.”
  11. 11. FE (Further Education) colleges  Almost total absence in all snapshots.  Searches, list requests, contacts indicate little activity, either public or 'under the surface'. (Unless FE colleges are much more secretive than HE universities!)  A small number of (enduring) exceptions: - Myersclough College (Forestry course promotion). - Bromley College (Computer Science promotion).
  12. 12. The two great “needs” Funding ... and ... Time
  13. 13. Worlds other than Second Life
  14. 14. Lesser mentioned in October 2008 Three or less mentions each:  Olive.  The Palace.  Croquet.  Metaplace.  There.  Neverwinter.  Small Worlds.  Active Worlds.  Twinity.
  15. 15. More mentioned in October 2008 Eight or more mentions each:  OpenSim.  Wonderland.  Metaplace.
  16. 16. OpenSim  Technical.  Offers more control, privacy, than Second Life. “SL and OpenSim have quite a lead, providing a toolkit rather than an end product.” “OpenSim does interest us, especially with regard to being able to close access for particular activities, the potential to bulk manage accounts and the opportunity to track activity for learning mapping.”
  17. 17. Google Lively  High profile and easy to use, so many people have tried it.  Felt to be 'superficial' for teaching and learning needs. “Google’s new virtual world was disappointing and didn’t seem to get the idea of open access community.” “The big drawback, especially for educators, was the lack, at least at the moment, of the ability to create your own content.”
  18. 18. Wonderland  Java-based.  More communication-oriented. “Wonderland was particularly interesting as it allowed groups of people to dynamically edit the same document. The quality of spatial sound was also appealing, and the fact that the platform is Java based and would allow for complex programming.”
  19. 19. Other issues of interest
  20. 20. The needs of academic developers They all say funding, so ignoring that they've also said:  A toolkit of ready-made high quality stuff for SL.  “SL on a stick” to circumvent problems with group and university lab work restrictions.  Guides aimed at academics e.g. how to successfully run a tutorial or workshop in Second Life. But – what are their other needs? Do they know?
  21. 21. Disappearing early adopters Some UK Second Life academic developers from the early days i.e. 2006 and 2007(!) aren't doing this any more. Why?  Funding has finished?  Development skills have moved elsewhere?  Fed up of lack of peer support / working in isolation?  Technical restrictions?  It didn't work out...?
  22. 22. IPR and related issues What if...  Several islands claim to represent one university.  An academic develops content for his research / course at home, then 'takes it' with him or her when he moves to a new university.  Students do design work on their university island – who 'owns' it?  The Vice Chancellor goes for a wander around his institutional island, and is 'mugged' by students.  A learning or education feature, developed by an academic at cost to the institution, is 'copied' or replicated by an academic at another institution.
  23. 23. Duplicated effort Many universities are doing exactly the same thing: investigating, from scratch, whether Second Life is useful for teaching and learning. Exacerbated by:  Peer-review “lag” particularly bad with virtual worlds due to rapid developments. Plenty of research going on, and has happened; the mound of (public) findings so far small.  Contact and peer networks being thin.  The “You don't get it till you've tried it” nature of SL.
  24. 24. Effect on university technical services What happens if/when teaching and other educational activities in virtual worlds become widespread?  Network traffic.  More higher specified machines (and graphics cards) in the labs.  More labs? Or can wireless campus network cope with mass use of SL on laptops?  Voice: making a noise wherever the participants are.
  25. 25. Future view
  26. 26. “In it for the long-haul”  Second Life currently predominant ... but may not be in the future.  Virtual Worlds in education will take years, possibly many, to be refined. “We will clearly continue to explore virtual worlds – however, it is not clear that Second Life world is the optimal environment.” “Increasingly used but not mainstream for several years.” “I don’t think it will go away this time, simply because of the enormous investment. We will also see diminished boundaries with the 2D web that will bring virtual worlds into the mainstream.”
  27. 27. Virtual World Watch Currently one year (Oct 15th 2008 to Oct 14th 2009). Activities funded by the Eduserv Foundation:  Continuation of the snapshot series, but with focus moving more towards 'many worlds'. Four more snapshots.  Identifying the directions and predominant themes in the emerging Second Life and virtual worlds research sector.  An independent comparison of Second Life to other virtual worlds, for teaching and learning purposes.  Other stuff we find interesting :-)
  28. 28. Follow Virtual World Watch...  Web: www.virtualworldwatch.net  Twitter: V_World_Watch Are you a UK academic doing “stuff” in virtual worlds?  Submit your blog to the blogroll.  Fill in the next snapshot survey questionnaire.  Contribute a few screendumps to the Flickr picture pool. Thanks – and that also helps you publicise your work.

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