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Learning using Virtual Worlds


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A presentation at the "Where next for virtual worlds in UK higher and further education?", facilitated by the Eduserv Foundation and hosted at the London Knowledge Lab, London.

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Learning using Virtual Worlds

  1. 1. Learning using Virtual Worlds Saturday, 13 September 2014
  2. 2. The big question? Saturday, 13 September 2014
  3. 3. Virtual World Watch #wnaef (What Next After Eduserv Funding) Saturday, 13 September 2014
  4. 4. Brief history • First snapshot: end of 2006-07 academic year... • ...unexpected interest. • Seven snapshots to date. • Presentations; Flickr group; a few articles and papers. • Difficult without data from the community. • Jolly good fun. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  5. 5. Though not smooth sailing • Ongoing experiment, dithering, in “best dissemination”: - Andy: A Wiki! - Pete: XHTML! - John: Podcasts! • Data collection tricky; “Find” (forthcoming presentation). • Trying to stay neutral and objective about a fiercely polarising, hyped and dismissed technology. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  6. 6. Virtual World Watch through 2010 • More “stuff” on website. • Presentations. • VWW book. (Core work) snapshots: • #8: March 15th • #9: June 20th • #10: December 12th Saturday, 13 September 2014
  7. 7. Trends • Core group of UK practitioners (you the audience!) has grown steadily, though not rapidly. • Several universities e.g. Edinburgh, Open, Leicester using virtual worlds for several years. • Much development is still voluntary, some internally funded, some externally. • A gradual movement from ‘building things’ to ‘using things’. • US take-up of virtual worlds in education is happening much quicker than in the UK. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  8. 8. University of Texas Saturday, 13 September 2014
  9. 9. UK subject areas where VWs are used • Nursing and medical training. • Biosciences. • Midwifery and maternity. • Languages (especially Spanish). • Criminology and forensics. • Art and design. • Computer science. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  10. 10. Virtual worlds The Good, the Bad and the Ferdinand Saturday, 13 September 2014
  11. 11. “You start with a box...” Saturday, 13 September 2014
  12. 12. Tutorial, Learning Team, University of Nottingham Saturday, 13 September 2014
  13. 13. Do your own thing • Huge control over the environment you and the students are in. • You are the admin. • Participate and share. • (Though not that much control over the students - but good thing?) • You have total choice over how you represent yourself. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  14. 14. Choose your mode of communication • Text • IM • Voice • Video • Audio • Gestures • ... and record Saturday, 13 September 2014
  15. 15. Looking for the comms silver bullet “For me, and I say this with a certain amount of hindsight, the most valuable and fun experiences in Second Life were those associated with meetings and events (particularly hybrid RL/SL events). Yet, as a platform for collaboration and communication, SL sucks in many respects. This is partly a personal view, but I know from having stood up in meetings and said this that others agree with me, voice destroys the immersive aspects of SL yet chat is hopeless for most kinds of serious conversation.” Saturday, 13 September 2014
  16. 16. It’s not just Second Life, you know... Saturday, 13 September 2014
  17. 17. “It’s just sex sex sex...” Yes, there’s “sex” in virtual worlds. •We know this. Boring. •It’s in all aspects of life. •Obsession with some people about sex in all media (jealous?). •It can be avoided - if you want to avoid it. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  18. 18. Obsession with accesses, users • Does it really matter how many people ‘use’ a virtual world, or are logged in at the same time? • This room (RL) is empty for most of any 24 hours. Is it therefore useless? • What really matters: - is it viable for learning? - what resources are needed - re-use - assessing learning usability - curriculum ‘fit’ Saturday, 13 September 2014
  19. 19. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  20. 20. “Just do it” (as Nike say) “If it works, then use it. If it doesn’t work, then use something else. Easy! You Brits like to drink tea and whine and argue about everything, don’t you?” Discussion of Second Life amongst Michigan academics, December 2009. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  21. 21. ...and the Ferdinand? Typical UK academic Second Life practitioner: •Outspoken. •Keen to share stuff created in virtual worlds. •Not averse to trying other, non-SL virtual worlds. •Provides opinionated, readable content for snapshots (thanks). Saturday, 13 September 2014
  22. 22. Search Saturday, 13 September 2014
  23. 23. Universities and colleges (Depends how you count them) •“122” universities. Sort of. •Many more colleges. •Other institutions somewhere in between. •Degrees, vocational ... •Overseas universities with colleges here. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  24. 24. Needle in a (virtual) haystack Saturday, 13 September 2014
  25. 25. University search (educational) Saturday, 13 September 2014
  26. 26. More search unhappiness Saturday, 13 September 2014
  27. 27. Comparing (badly) with web search “Can you imagine if our web browsers sent us around the Internet with the same dysfunctional mob randomness as the current method of finding stuff in Second Life?” Jeremy Kemp, SLED mailing list, Saturday December 19th, 2009 Saturday, 13 September 2014
  28. 28. Finding “stuff” is (sometimes) easier Saturday, 13 September 2014
  29. 29. Research Saturday, 13 September 2014
  30. 30. Who needs research results? • Researchers, for their careers. • Mass media, for mangling into news stories. • Funding bodies, to see the results of what they have funded. • Universities, to get more money. • Virtual World companies, to get evidence that their product is useful in education. • Practitioners, needing: - validity that VWs are a useful technology in learning - comparisons with other technologies for learning - information on how best to use VWs Saturday, 13 September 2014
  31. 31. Types of research ‘output’ include: • Peer-reviewed papers - now a substantial amount, but of extremely variable quality. • Blogs. • Media articles. • YouTube and Flickr. • Workshops and Conferences. • ‘Stuff’ built in-world(s). Saturday, 13 September 2014
  32. 32. But how to test? • Near impossible to test quantitatively (unless you know different?) • Subject areas using VWs difficult to test. Who wants to be the midwife in the ‘control group’ for birth trials? • Many of the skills acquired in using VWs are not curriculum based e.g. collaborative work, visualisation. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  33. 33. Example of data capture “Students’ and tutors’ personal experience of using SL for teaching and learning and their engagement with SL-tivities were captured by semi-structured interviews, chat logs and researchers’ notes of observations at each SL session.” Final report, JISC-funded MOOSE project: Saturday, 13 September 2014
  34. 34. Open Habitat conclusions regular... Overall the project was a successful exploration of the use of MUVEs for teaching and learning. Some aspects worked smoothly: •The use of OpenSim. •Using Second Life as a place for Art and Design students to be creative. •Using Second Life to give a strong sense of social presence for the Philosophy students. One commented: “Second Life is particularly useful in creating shared spaces where people feel more a part of the tutorial/discussion environment.” Saturday, 13 September 2014
  35. 35. ...and the downsides Other aspects were more problematic: •The need for students to learn relatively quickly how to operate at a basic level within Second Life. •The practical working-out of close collaboration in Second Life. •The use of Second Life to discuss complex aspects of philosophy using a seminar format. •The lack of non-verbal cues in Second Life and generic problems with using text chat. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  36. 36. Trite, over-simplified, VWW thoughts 1. Yes, Virtual Worlds can be useful in some, specific, subject areas and applications. The academic community is slowly working out what those are, and also where it’s not useful. 2.There’s a bunch of non-curriculum applications in academia e.g. communicating with remote PhD students, attending events without leaving home. 3.But there’s a cost (tho’ isn’t there for all technologies?) - a large one - in terms of time, effort, dedication required. 4.For a number of reasons, VWs are not widely accepted. Don’t expect universal love for doing this. Keep calm and modify avatars. Producing good evidence helps. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  37. 37. “What next” predictions Saturday, 13 September 2014
  38. 38. In the short term (1) • Second Life, Open Sim and related will be around for a while yet. 6.5 years and counting; that’s a *long* time ... • More virtual worlds will appear. Some will stay. Some will fail. Much as has happened over the last few years. • Other virtual worlds will struggle to stay head-to-head with SL (and compatible worlds) when it comes to education; due to the amount of momentum. • (Inevitably) rising travel costs will mean SL and similar platforms used more for academic distance events and collaboration. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  39. 39. In the short term (2) • Some people will try it and not be comfortable, or find a use for it. Some will hear negative stuff about it and not try it. (Shrug) so ... it’s like other technologies? • More academics, often volunteers, will find more niche/ narrow subject areas that virtual worlds are suited towards. However, much less use for broader subject applications. • Virtual World developments in UK academia less affected by funding cuts as so much of it is voluntary anyway (that’s both a good and a bad thing). • Information and research will continue to dribble out in a fragmented manner. Saturday, 13 September 2014
  40. 40. In the long term... How the hell should I know? (Look, did any of you honestly predict that Twitter would have academics mass-sending 140 character tweets? Hmm?) Saturday, 13 September 2014
  41. 41. Your experience ... and how it relates to virtual world use in the future • Geoff Barker-Read, University of Leeds • Andy Beggan, University of Nottingham • Simon Bignell, University of Derby • Manuel Frutos-Perez, University of the West of England • Annabeth Robinson, Leeds College of Art • Kathryn Trinder, Glasgow Caledonian University Saturday, 13 September 2014