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Outline of the use of SLOODLE to support two classes using Second Life at the University of the West of Scotland, 2008-2009

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  1. 1. University of the West of Scotland: Tale of Two Classes This case study outlines how SLOODLE tools were used to support teaching and learning with Second Life® in two classes at the University of the West of Scotland. One class was an honours year option in which Second Life was a core part of a course where students developed significant group projects using or extending Second Life. In contrast, Second Life was only briefly used in the second, online only, class. But despite with very little experience of the platform students were able to use Second Life for class presentations, thanks to SLOODLE. This case-study assumes some familiarity with common Second Life terms.
  2. 2. Second Life® and SL™ are trademarks of Linden Research, Inc. SLOODLE is funded and supported by Eduserv SLOODLE is supported by the San Josė State University School of Library and Information Science SLOODLE is supported by the University of the West of Scotland SLOODLE is an Open-Source project, released under GNU Public License. More details at In the following case study you will see the following symbols used:  This is a note, and may indicate an alternative use of SLOODLE or other aside.  Good practice tip – a tip which might make running a class with Second Life and SLOODLE go more smoothly.
  3. 3. The Two Courses Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVE) is an honours year optional module in which students learn about and use a range of collaborative technologies. Group projects develop applications and new tools for using the technologies, or extend the technologies themselves. Second Life has been a core element of this class for the past three years. In contrast, Introduction to Virtual Worlds (IVW) is a second year distance learning class offered to students through the university‟s Lifelong Learning program. This class has been taken by a mix of full time and part time students, and students explore a range of different virtual world platforms, looking at their use in a range of application areas – from entertainment to education and corporate applications. Second Life was only introduced towards the end of this class. Moodle SLOODLE integrates Second Life with the popular, open-source, VLE/LMS 'Moodle'. Moodle provides a flexible web-based platform where tutors can customise course pages by adding or removing a wide range of activities and content 'blocks'. For more on Moodle, see Setting Up Preparations for the classes started with setting up the Moodle courses. The Moodle site was given a distinct and enhanced look by using the ThemZa „Global Network‟ theme from the Moodle themes database.  Adding a custom theme is the easiest and perhaps most effective way of enhancing the look and feel of Moodle. A large database of free themes can be found at Collaborative Virtual Environments The CVE course was campus based – but delivered at two campuses some two hours travelling time apart (Paisley and Dumfries). Lectures were shared using video-conferencing, while labs used Second Life allowing students on both campuses to interact with each other throughout the timetabled hours. The Moodle course page was central to co-ordinating student activity, and preparation of this involved:  Adding a „Teleport Now‟ button to take students to class area in Second Life. This used a SLurl and an image of the virtual island taken from Second Life.  News and discussion forums
  4. 4.  Blocks added to page for link to Moodle blog (Blog block) and to an externally hosted blog used for written assignments (RSS block).  Once groups had been selected and set up on Moodle (see below), chatrooms were created for each group‟s private use and a Group discussion forum added – this single forum allowed users to filter discussions based on group membership.   Have your Moodle course pages prepared for students before the class starts – this is especially important for distance learning and off campus students! Decide which activities and blocks you will be using and customize the course page accordingly. Students, Groups and Student Choice The first class activity tasked students to introduce themselves to their classmates over video-conferencing link. An outline of the course was presented, and a range of possible projects were suggested for students to consider and select. With students from a range of backgrounds, some projects focussed more on the underlying technology of Second Life, instead of its applications. The four projects selected were:  Second Life client mod project. The Second Life client is open source, and it is possible for students to download and modify the source code itself, programming in C++. This was of interest to
  5. 5. students interested in working on more significant software engineering challenges, working with „real‟ code.  Second Life bot project. There are a range of Artificial Intelligence based bot/chat-bot technologies already available for use with Second Life. Students worked with these to develop AI guides for Second Life.  Develop a virtual world campus for UWS. Approximately half of the land area of the university sim was allocated to the large group working on this project.  Develop a web and virtual world presence to promote/support the “Homecoming Scotland” tourism marketing campaign. About one fifth of the sim was allocated for this (more narrowly focussed) project‟s use. Getting Started with Second Life The first week‟s lab activity in Second Life focussed on ensuring that all students were able to register accounts on Second Life and from there to simply log into Second Life, find the university sim and to experiment with the building tools.  Once students had logged in, the first activity was to join the class group – without expending a lot of time, students were quickly introduced to chat, IM and group IM communications.  Depending on your class, exploring avatar identities and experimenting with appearance may be a class activity or, as here, left for students to explore in their own time. Some students in the classes described here used default avatars throughout – others were significantly more experimental. Students appeared to master communication quite quickly – prepared by prior experience with other internet based text-chat applications. Rather than expend time ensuring students mastered the finer points of communications, an introductory building activity completed the first lab session.  For some student cohorts and classes there are potential benefits in introducing object creation in Second Life as soon as possible. Positive results were gained from this approach with digital art students in the JISC OpenHABITAT project, for example. A SLOODLE distributor pre-prepared by the tutor with a selected range of 'freebie' objects – allowing students to finish the session by playing around with existing Second Life content.  The Object Distributor is an Second Life distribution system which can be accessed from Moodle. In Second Life, a distributor was set up prior to the class coming to Second Life and a large and varied
  6. 6. array of free items – clothing, custom avatars and accessories – placed inside for students to play with and explore. Group Work Students were placed into groups at the start of the second lab session. Students were asked to start the lab session in SL by clicking on a registration booth that was set up in the class sand-box area. By following simple prompts, and logging into Moodle, the students' avatars are then paired with their Moodle user accounts – a simple but necessary step for full use of SLOODLE. Each group then retreated to a separate chat area to discuss their group goals and plans. Each chat area was provided with a SLOODLE web-intercom, connected to a Moodle chatroom.  Web-intercom automatically archives in-world discussions on the Moodle web-site. Students reported that this was particularly useful for reviewing agreed goals, objectives and progress. Formally introducing tools in lab activities can highlight their potential applications to students who might otherwise not make use of the tools. The synchronous in world discussion was extended with groups additionally using the Moodle forums, Google Docs, file-sharing sites and bulletin-boards as they worked on their projects over succeeding weeks. Again, Google Docs was used in a lab activity - few of the students had made much prior use of Google Docs, and even fewer were aware of the synchronous editing and sharing capabilities. Virtual Classroom Activities The taught component of the course was primarily delivered via video conferencing, with a few of the lectures taking place in Second Life itself. One lecture was a review of teaching tools in Second Life. To help maintain engagement during this lecture a SLOODLE Choice tool was prepared and used as a form of „audience response system‟, or „clicker‟. With options ranging in a five-point scale from “Always/Strongly Agree” to Sloodle to “Never/Strongly Disagree”, it was possible to ask questions at a number of points through the class and quickly obtain a visual indication of the student feedback. Additionally, in this and other in-world sessions students were required to move between different locations in Second Life to view different artefacts.
  7. 7.  It is not always possible to ascertain whether or not a student is still at their keyboard – let alone whether they are reading email or browsing the web while logged in. Asking students to reply to questions or moving the whole group at irregular intervals can help ensure that students remain focussed on the class. Virtual Field Trips Virtual field trips can be very easy to arrange in Second Life – with content creators often eager to show-off their creations. This is true of many commercial, corporate, governmental or academic sites. One of the CVE class field trips was to the in-world campus for the Open University, a tour led by Anna Peachey. To enable the automatic logging and archive of chat from the virtual field trip, a web-intercom was „worn‟ by the tutor by dragging from inventory onto his avatar. The intercom could then be taken with the group to each location visited (see picture), and worked as normal.  Second Life terms-of-service require that permission is obtained before logging chat, and this is requested when the intercom is clicked on. The intercom only records chat from avatars who agree to the logging. On a private sim it is possible to establish terms of use that make it clear to visitors that their chat will be logged – and the intercom scripts can be modified accordingly. Introduction to Virtual Worlds The Introduction to virtual worlds class spent only a few weeks with Second Life, after undertaking activities in a wide range of alternative virtual worlds in previous weeks. The homepage for this course was, again, a Moodle site. A key feature for this distance learning class was the use of Moodle discussion forums for asyncrhonous discussions between classes, and a wiki in which students wrote their individual chapters for a class project – a text on virtual worlds. There were few opportunities to use SLOODLE tools to support this class, as only the final few weeks of activities took place in Second Life and the students were not tasked with any form of content creation. However, students did need to give presentations to the class in Second Life – and
  8. 8. the SLOODLE presenter was used for this. This allowed the students to focus on the content of their presentations, without having to worry about how to import or upload textures in Second Life – or even how to edit notecards – while allowing students with prior Second Life experience to enhance their presentations with 3D content. Instead, each student was given „teacher‟ permissions on a presentation in the Moodle site. This allowed them to upload slides, images and even videos onto the web, and to have this media automatically streamed into Second Life onto a presenter display rezzed inworld by the class tutor. Summary Over two different classes, with very different aims and objectives, SLOODLE tools provided support to tutor and to students in teaching and learning. Students‟ themselves made effective use of SLOODLE tools in supporting group work activities and for presenting their own work to other students inworld – in a short period of time, without having to first become conversant with object creation and editing in the virtual world. More SLOODLE This case-study illustrates the use of a just some of the SLOODLE tools and features. Interested and want to know more? Visit the SLOODLE project homepage – . Here you‟ll find forums for users and developers (all welcome!) as well as Spanish language forums. The forums are active, and most requests for help are answered within 24 hours, sometimes significantly less. You‟ll also find links to our wiki, tutorial videos and a whole lot more! Visit the SLOODLE homepage - – or come to one of our regular inworld meetings to learn more. About Moodle The SLOODLE homepage has been created using Moodle, the open-source learning and content management system. You can learn more about Moodle at Moodle is used by over 30 million students and tutors worldwide, and is the virtual learning environment of choice for thousands of schools, colleges, universities and businesses.