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Graduate Students in Second Life

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Graduate Students in Second Life

  1. 1. Students in Second Life: The Roller Coaster Ride of a Shifting Paradigm -- adventures in online courses conducted in part in a virtual synchronous environment . . . the rules themselves are changing [email_address] / [email_address] Empire State College (SUNY) – May 2009
  2. 2. <ul><li>Background on students and courses; some examples </li></ul><ul><li>Reports on selected students works; some quotes </li></ul><ul><li>Interpretation by instructor </li></ul><ul><li>Is there a conceptual framework? What about a possible metaphor? </li></ul><ul><li>Additional, if time permits: tips on integrating SL use into your courses </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Many Roller Coasters When Incorporating SL Your own learning: tech & ambiguity Tech: SL availability / student support Students: how can their uses, complaints & ideas inform an instructor? Course: objectives, design & assessment
  4. 4. Demographics TOTAL Course 1 Course 2 Course 3 Female 15 5 5 5 Male 19 2 10 7 Age: 23 - 29 4 2 2 0 Age: 30 - 39 14 1 6 7 Age: 40 - 49 13 3 6 4 Age: 50 + 3 1 1 1
  5. 5. Courses: time frames, focus, and student experience
  6. 6. MAT Science Center (under revamping)
  7. 7. Students across the state give virtual presentations
  8. 8. Meeting the Dean
  9. 9. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
  10. 10. Class meeting using ISTE space
  11. 11. National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  12. 12. NOAA – virtual, real-time weather Map (Northeast)
  13. 13. SL Expectations in Course 1 More on this course in the paper that will be submitted
  14. 14. SL Expectations in Course 2
  15. 15. SL Expectations in Course 3
  16. 16. <ul><li>What follows are the results </li></ul><ul><li>from committee reports and projects </li></ul>
  17. 17. Course 2: committees make SL suggestions <ul><li>At semester’s end, students chose committees: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>they collaborated on improving SL use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>committees: SL logistics ; layout-physical; SL uses </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Documented with Snapshots and PowerPoint's that were then posted in the course: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allows for a quasi-visual way to explain learning – for assessment purposes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More creative – less resistance to doing the work </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The layout committee considered physical and social spaces Notice how students gain rich, intuitive understanding of the environment after the initial adjustment - no need to “teach” about ways to use SL Area addressed What wanted: Type of spaces: Lounging spaces – open areas Open booths Schedule posting areas for meeting Signage: Simple but informative – not cluttered Mapping: Teleports to get around ; pathways & boardwalks; “You are here”
  19. 19. The layout committee is clear about their expectations (images are from the report)
  20. 20. The logistics committee addressed working within SL, in general Scheduling becomes an issue though Committee recommended uses: Amplification Small group discussions 5 participants max Attending lecture & events At other islands too In addition to face-to-face For presentations & for orientation Value to administration too; beyond the courses themselves Give options for attending . . . such as, attend 3 out of 5 For office hours
  21. 21. Logistics committee noted problems SL makes an asynchronous class more time restrictive for faculty too Large group activities are difficult to organize Vertigo . . . for some (need better navigation & camera skills) Losing the flexibility of online Some had trouble signing on at home Too much too soon -- spend more time orienting NOTE: really tech support issues here; there is an Orientation Island
  22. 22. Still committees concluded . . .
  23. 23. <ul><li>Many had said they were skeptical at first but could see the value towards the end – they like the more “real life” interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Greater flexibility with timing  two days for class meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Staging the introduction into SL  scaffolded assignments and discussion topics in SL </li></ul>
  24. 24. Useful areas cited by third course students – spontaneous in blue / prompted (required within the assignment) in pink
  25. 25. Most significant & reasonable student complaints <ul><li>Learning curves & ways to reduce it </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology problems for some </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scheduling of meetings times </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In online classes, they were used to more autonomy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Issues with teams / collaborations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Similar to other times when teams are used  some poor participators; some timing issues </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Student comments – T&L <ul><li>“ I really like the idea of the instructor commenting during discussions but in SL it was also nice to hear our instructor talk directly to us, it made her and the course more genuine.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I liked seeing other avatars change, although I didn't change my own” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Exploring the virtual environment together helped to develop a feeling of comaraderie” </li></ul>
  27. 28. Evidence of immersion in & acceptance of virtual reality <ul><li>Rich suggestions from students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NOTE: the course did not “teach” SL uses beyond experiencing & visiting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Suggestions map to the real world: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>boardwalks & pathways (when not needed); want comfortable, familiar structures </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Students stop positing this is make-believe: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>casting a rich range of real world topics and activities into this space; non-threatening to teens </li></ul></ul>
  28. 29. Evidence of immersion in & acceptance of virtual reality <ul><li>Student reflect on new types of communications and interaction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>would be hard to get this level of dialog and reflection from discussions alone (online / f2f / in papers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the immersion generates new levels of thinking about innovative uses of technology that might otherwise be outside the realm of this group of “older” students </li></ul></ul>
  29. 30. Students in an immersive environment <ul><li>Significant increase in student interaction, collaboration and empathy (yes, they whine together too) in these 100% online classes </li></ul><ul><li>Natural SL leaders emerge – often w/ more technical yet still with good interpersonal skills </li></ul><ul><li>Through their immersion, students gain an intuitive understanding of the environment as evident by their rich recommendations for grad school & for their K12 students </li></ul>
  30. 31. Benefits perceived by instructor <ul><li>Better knowledge of students but more importantly students have better knowledge of each other; bonding – learning together in a new way </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor learns from analysis of each class reports & debriefings  course improvements </li></ul><ul><li>Richer understanding of all tech – through the immersion / spontaneity / modeling in SL </li></ul><ul><li>More ways to teach, learn, create, and explore  no longer the same classroom limitations </li></ul>
  31. 32. Cautions noted by instructor <ul><li>Students want choice – but some may opt out if possible; you need to bring them in if you are committed to this type of learning </li></ul><ul><li>Structured meetings were still used to avoid frustration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>but I’m looking for better ways to have spontaneous interactions – but be careful about how much new tech you put in one course </li></ul></ul>
  32. 34. Best expressed through an instructional metaphor : like designing an intelligent experience (field trip / discussions / role playing / construction) . . . with an assessment More advanced uses
  33. 35. Then what can SL bring to a course? <ul><li>Johnson 2008 – claims SL isn’t really new; use your field in the world: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Move beyond text for case studies; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adapt or modify from current “real world” practice, ie. role playing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Find how learning is addressed and assessed in the field & bring this to your course </li></ul></ul><ul><li>VERY good advice – but are faculty ready for the openness? </li></ul>
  34. 36. You can feel like . . . <ul><li>An event planner at a conference </li></ul><ul><li>Where you are responsible for the getting everyone there and making them happy </li></ul><ul><li>AND being sure that the conference itself is successful </li></ul>
  35. 37. . . . gleaned from the school of hard knocks
  36. 38. Designing an SL portion to a course Course objectives Is there a requirement for collaboration, sharing, discussion? Meeting arrangements Some required time, at least initially Give multiple times for participation if online course Tasks & conversations Discussions / role playing / guest speakers Overheard – real discussions Collaboration spaces You don’t have to be there all the time Require documenting & reporting; snapshots in Shared experiences Field trips / presentations / scavenger hunts Put PowerPoint into SL for presentations (it’s easy) Methods of gaining SL expertise Tutorial / handouts / peer tutoring / tech support Posit, expect and support awkwardness & learning curve Ways of communicating Voice chatting (w/ headsets) is useful with smaller group In larger groups, determine who speaks and have others use text
  37. 39. Considering students & their learning curve Issue Ways instructor can help - Technology requirements - In the school lab if possible; alternatives if necessary - Finding time to learn SL - Embed learning into an early assignment - Time to overcome awkwardness - Instructor can model learning and awkwardness (generally easy to do); have a field trip - Problems with scheduling - Have multiple sessions and/or times & ways to participate - Problems with voice chatting - Work with them on their audio / headset settings; get tech help if possible; use text chatting as a backup - Problems with collaborating - Provide structured / required interactions until groups can work on their own - Problems with valuing SL - Don’t expect all will “like” SL at the start; over time more come to value the experience
  38. 40. Overall recommendations <ul><li>Stage SL introduction / test along the way </li></ul><ul><li>Attend to scheduling </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate into course objectives / require reflection & application / assess </li></ul><ul><li>Value and require collaboration / facilitate </li></ul><ul><li>Gather suggestions from students for future </li></ul><ul><li>Find ways to work across courses & program </li></ul>
  39. 41. Additional info & links <ul><li> - current & past presentations, including those by students on uses of SL (not all are “perfect”) & instructor on use & curriculum issues </li></ul><ul><li>Johnson & Levine (2008); Virtual Worlds: Inherently Immersive, Highly Social Learning Spaces. Teaching into Learning, Vol 47, Issue 2, p. 161 – 170 </li></ul><ul><li>O’Connor, E. A. Becoming a Virtual Instructor: How Can Higher Education Faculty Prepare for Second Life? (published with E-Learn conference proceedings in November 2008 in Las Vegas) </li></ul><ul><li>O’Connor, E. A. and Sakshaug, L. Preparing for Second Life: Two Teacher Educators Reflect on Their Initial Foray into Virtual Teaching and Learning (Journal of Educational Technology Systems, Volume 37, No. 3, 2008-2009) </li></ul>

Editor's Notes

  • These authors will present how students in online graduate courses participated in Second Life, addressing their struggles to participate, their range of virtual activities, and the useful advice students offered for improving SL course interactions. A conceptual framework for developing instructional activities in immersive virtual environments is emerging.     Abstract Working in immersive virtual environments, such as Second Life (SL), offers great promise to higher education faculty who are willing to brave the wilds of a very new and different way to interact with students. The paper will present an overview of the complexities, challenges, and victories students have experienced in SL; over several courses, more than 30 science teachers have worked and collaborated in this environment to meet some of the course objectives. Part of this paper will address the activities in which student engaged, the type of interactions that occurred and the learning curve involved, the results of the students debriefings on their experience, suggestions that student committees made for improving the Second Life experience, and the results of implementing these improvements in later courses.   In studying the process and outcomes of graduate students in SL (a third class is currently being conducted during the spring 2009 semester), the authors are beginning to understand the implicit conceptual framework that appears to underpin this roller coaster experience. Much is new and different about Second Life, however, the fundamentals of the multi-faceted and diverse interactions that can happen within a virtual environment have much in common with the complexities of real-world classes, often even more so then the controlled and limited interactions available within online classes. The authors will articulate an emerging conceptual framework that can help them and others consider the complexities of this environment and to determine what “affordances” (things you can do with the platform) are most useful to courses where SL is intended as a way to facilitate collaboration and interaction and as a way to simulate experiences that would be difficult to create in reality.   Second Life opens new vistas. With SL, an online course can have many of the aspects of a face-to-face course, and more. Virtual explorations offer new platforms for educational discussion – for instance, the class can all experience a tsunami and consider it implications. This paper will both explain students’ perspectives and outline a framework that can promote more effective and efficient development in this environment.   Who would benefit / who is the target audience? Instructors who might be designing or considering designing in this environment; K12 teacher educators; science instructors and science-teacher educators; administrators and staff who would support faculty as they move into Second-Life development   Three questions we would expect from our target audience? How do you address the logistics of bringing students into a virtual environment that has a steep learning curve? What activities and interactions worked best in this environment? Is there a way of thinking about an immersive, virtual space that can help me understand where it might be useful in a course?