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Surveying Virtual World use in UK universities and colleges

A presentation at the National Workshop on Teaching in Immersive Worlds in the University of Ulster, November 2009.

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Surveying Virtual World use in UK universities and colleges

  1. 1. Surveying virtual world use in UK universities and colleges 20th November 2009
  2. 2. Eduserv Foundation / Research funded.Phase 1: discrete activity reports (‘snapshots’) fromsummer 2007 to autumn 2008.Phase 2: more continuous data collection fromNovember 2008 to May 2009.
  3. 3. Phase 3: September ’09 to March ’10 Snapshots #7 and #8. Two reports on how academics choose virtual worlds. Report on virtual world research trends in UK HE / FE. Making the website a hub of useful things for UK academics. Synthesis of the learning conclusions of virtual world project reports. Planning phase 4.
  4. 4. 6 years and 5 months of Second Life... this is not new technology Bernadette Daley
  5. 5. Backdrop to snapshot #7 Some UK universities into their second or third year of using virtual worlds. “Community” is a mix of the long-term users and the noobs. Projects funded by the JISC, Eduserv et al finishing and reporting. No longer a niche, but the majority of UK academics are non-users with vague / incorrect ideas, no concept of educational use (thought: like Twitter?).
  6. 6. A community of academic developers Annabeth Robinson
  7. 7. Why build virtual stuff? What’s so badabout the real world? Make better use of comms. 30 silent, mind-wandering students while a lecturer ‘lectures’? Soooo 20th century! Learning by doing - more stuff sinks in. Develop a battery of social, logistical, organisational, technological skills at the same time. Gravity sucks. So do building regulations. Build better. Travel great distances to meet, learn, *communicate*?! WTF ?
  8. 8. Daniel Guip
  9. 9. “Every time you tweet, a butterfly dies.” Getting accurate information on effect of using ICT, mitigation of using it as replacement for real world activities, is hard. Factors include the whole supply chain (proportionate cost of making the PC); whether an attendee at a virtual meeting would have attended the real life one; virtual / real event organisational energy use; and hundreds more ... Example: contested claim, maths that a Second Life avatar uses as much power as a Brazilian:
  10. 10. Effective technology use *may* help Nick Fraser Peak oil, CO2, Kyoto, Copenhagen... Remember virtual worlds aren’t the only communication technology e.g. Skype, the telephone. Follow Joss Winn (right) on Twitter for sensible info on energy / climate change: @josswinn
  11. 11. Meeting in a flipchart world Tom Hapwood
  12. 12. Engage, record, find, research *during* your meeting John Kirriemuir
  13. 13. Fly in or out of a session at will - without leaving home John Kirriemuir
  14. 14. Your campus in the real world Chen Zhao
  15. 15. Your campus in a virtual world Torley
  16. 16. Lecture in a university Vince
  17. 17. Lecture (not in, but) through a virtual world Steven W Bohm
  18. 18. Yes, very pretty, but...All that glitters is not ... educational. So ... Is it worth the effort? Virtual world development costs. Staff virtual world learning time. Learner virtual world learning time. “Land” rent or ownership fees.
  19. 19. The Further Education experience JISC RSCs are 13 regional semi-autonomous units, providing range of support services to mainly FE / FE in HE. Most JISC Regional Support Centres providing summaries of what’s happening in their region (thanks). Most FE institutions not (visibly) doing anything. Some JISC RSCs providing Second Life islands, running workshops, levering HE experience to help FE in their area.
  20. 20. Barriers (a bit similar to 2007 HE) “We used six months of RSC-Northern-granted access to try and get it working inside our college network. Our efforts for a solution were unrealised in the end. Also, graphic cards were an issue for many machines in our estate. We are now considering using Second Life OpenSim, but are awaiting new servers and virtualisation being set up in college.” (Paul Flynn, Stockton Riverside College) “Access to online virtual worlds is a particular problem for Local Authority provision due to network restrictions.” (Paul Miller, JISC RSC Northern)
  21. 21. JISC RSC Northern Ireland 6 multi-campus FE/HE colleges formed 2 years ago by the merger of 16 existing colleges. South Eastern Regional College is using Second Life for HE and OpenSim for FE students. wordp/ - James Bell
  22. 22. The Higher Education experience Extremely fragmented. Activities in all but one UK university. ... but rarely in a joined-up way. Always been the case. *sigh* A lot of curiosity, talk, speculation, but far less actual action in some institutions. Most developments not publicised; some private; some have odd names. Again, always been the case. Some academics open, some closed, some want to just do their remit and move on to the next thing.
  23. 23. Some HE-based activities Research into how virtual worlds could be used in education. Teaching courses, especially e-learning, computer science. Recreation of historical sites and buildings. Student developments, exhibitions (esp. art and design). Health and safety workplace training. Crime investigation and training. Medical emergency, procedure, situations. Meetings and conferences, integrating video, audio.
  24. 24. “I lecture in Criminology at Coventry University and am using Second Life to develop a dysfunctional community as a teaching and learning resource ... Second Life provides a platform that allows immersion in a relatively realistically simulated neighbourhood without the ethical dilemmas and potential risks of field studies.”Graham Steventon, Coventry University
  25. 25. Training safely in a litigious, health and safety, culture Bree Kjeller
  26. 26. Virtual Quarry “Learn by dying” - apprentices stumble into, onto, under the many hazards in a digital environment first. Role-play e.g. procedure for detonating a cliff. It’s cheaper per student and per class. Students don’t have to spend time, money, travelling to a real quarry in the first place. May decide it’s not for them after the virtual experience. Course tutor less worried about implications of mishaps of fresh apprentice.
  27. 27. Safety in the quarry (driving jeeps over cliffs) Institute of Quarrying in Second Life
  28. 28. MSc in E-learning (Fiona Littleton) Online distance programme with over 130 students. We use a virtual world in various courses across the entire programme from an Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning (IDEL), where we introduce virtual worlds and discuss online identity to dissertation supervision, where supervisors meet with their students for virtual meetings. This semester (Sept - Dec 09) has been the first time that all students on IDEL have been able to access Second Life.
  29. 29. MSc in E-learning, University of Edinburgh Fiona Littleton
  30. 30. First World War poetry digital archive A range of digitised archival materials like poetry manuscripts, letters and diaries from the major poets of the First World War including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg and Vera Brittain, along with contextual primary source materials. Encourages exploration of SL sim. Click on boxes to hear poets recite, soldiers describe conditions. Try on uniforms, explore camps and trenches.
  31. 31. Historical and geographical information Tara Yeats
  32. 32. Modeling very small or large things Recreate, animate, interact. More practical than “the real thing”. Plenty of already created stuff (tho’ hard to find - virtual world search, indexing is dire)... and share. (IPR issues brooding). Safer e.g. growth of the tuberculosis bacteria. Stop, start, record, replay. Copy.
  33. 33. Molecules, bacteria, virus and other tiny stuff Peter Miller, University of Liverpool
  34. 34. Learning information literacy Research (offline and on). Model. Link to related things. Display and present. Discuss, seminar, workshop. Disseminate.
  35. 35. Info management student exhibition, Sheffield University Sheila Webber
  36. 36. Develop and discuss learning theories Bex Ferriday
  37. 37. Wind turbine Second Life project1. Designing and coding programmes to calculate electricity generation of wind turbines.2.Using Second Life to simulate the effect of ‘real world variables on turbines of different design and displaying the output of electricity generated.3.Evaluating their experience in Second Life.Student evaluations largely positive:
  38. 38. Barry Spencer, Bromley College
  39. 39. Virtual Maternity Unit, Kate Boardman The Virtual Maternity Unit is an embedded part of the midwifery training at Teesside. It has 36 ante- and post-natal rooms and two birthing suites. Each cohort of student midwives have complete ownership of the Unit, choosing its name, décor, layout of some rooms and working through - with roles which include community midwives with home birth duties - case scenarios of a variety of girls and women for whom to establish care plans and identify mother or baby health problems in monitoring their progress. Second Life now offers the opportunity to engage in a much more realistic manner with many of the exercises, and - similar to the SLENZ Birthing Centre in New Zealand - undertake research and make choices as to the environment as well as the medical issues. The greater learning however - and testament to the reality of the virtual world - is that squeamish men have backed off from the actual birthing activity, so its been a fantastic antenatal resource for the two about to become new fathers on my team :)
  40. 40. Midwifery (Teesside University) Kate Boardman Teesside University
  41. 41. Midwifery (Teesside University) Kate Boardman Teesside University
  42. 42. Midwifery (Teesside University) Kate Boardman Teesside University
  43. 43. “In my day we had chalk and blackboards and education where you sat in rows and faced the lecturer who told you things that you memorised and you had a brain and didn’t need a calculator or a computer and ... blah blah blah ... where will it all end? Graduation in cyberspace?”Overheard rant, type 3 user (later), University of Fuddy Duddy
  44. 44. Corporation Pop
  45. 45. Second Life.You either love it,or you hate it. Steve Calcott
  46. 46. Polarising student base Student reactions to Second Life appear more emotive than to other software. Strongly negative (usually between ¼ to ⅓ ) “This is pointless.” Strongly positive (the remainder) “I’m a flying cardboard box. It’s mint.” Seems to play the biggest part in success (more than interface, learning design, etc). Mark Childs
  47. 47. Type 1: the ‘fault-finder’ Technically experienced. May be a gamer. Focuses on the lower resolution graphics of VWs in comparison with games. Becomes especially frustrated with glitches, crashes and lag. May have a point. Mark Childs
  48. 48. Type 2: the ‘feelie’ Feels particularly alienated by inability to read facial expressions. Values tactile and physical experiences particularly. Extrovert. “So strongly situated in the real world and their real body that they have a difficult time becoming involved in a virtual world.” (Heeter, 1995; 200) Mark Childs
  49. 49. Type 3: the ‘killjoy’ Views education as an activity to be engaged with seriously at all times. The superficial resemblance of VWs to games deters them. The fantasy elements (flying, teleportation) are seen as frivolous and any experience inworld is therefore seen as inauthentic. Regards the activities of others in the space (dancing, morphing) as having an undermining effect on learning activities. Mark Childs
  50. 50. “Before Second Life launched we used virtual worlds like Palace, Active Worlds and There as a space to meet students, but because Second Life was multi platform and more immersive we began to use Second Life on our programme more than any other virtual world.”Fiona Littleton, University of Edinburgh
  51. 51. “I have also ventured into MetaPlace ... the main advantage is not needing to download anything - this is a great advantage over SL, especially for those of us with ‘locked-down’ computers, and means that you don’t have to worry about whether the most up-to-date client is loaded on a particular PC, etc.”Lindsay Da Silva, University of Chichester
  52. 52. Metaplace Daniel Livingstone
  53. 53. OpenSim / Reactiongrid Annabeth Robinson
  54. 54. Project reports starting to appear Waves of projects from the last few years finishing. Have a rummage through JISC, Eduserv websites and look for final reports. Open Habitat is a good starter; look through the conclusions. documents/habitatfinalreport
  55. 55. Open Habitat summary (1) The two main affordances of MUVEs in particular are: Eventedness: The ability to provide a space in which students feel a shared endeavour can take place. Co-presence: The sense that you are present with other people. Of note is that MUVEs do not provide very strong ‘latent social presence’ i.e. when you log-off your presence ceases, unlike for example social networking or forums. In conjunction with the correct pedagogy and facilitation the MUVE can be very effective in supporting shared endeavours but close collaboration can still be challenging.
  56. 56. Open Habitat summary (2) Using an MUVE is a high risk activity as because of the nature of the platform the range of student and tutor experiences can be varied. A bad session can feel highly isolating and alienating while a good experience can feel very communal and co-operative. Social technologies such as MUVEs benefit from a less hierarchical approach to teaching. Even the ‘master-apprentice’ model seems a little too authoritarian. Subjects that are an ongoing process of debate or discovery seem to be best suited to MUVEs rather than subjects or sessions that attempt to converge on a ‘correct’ answer.
  57. 57. Personal view Is it worth the effort? Depends on the learning situation... Worlds are getting easier to use; effort reducing. But still more hurdles than with most other educational technologies. 2009-2010 - this year - academia researching, testing, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Some subject areas e.g. midwifery, work simulation, molecular work, medical, emergency, showing much use.
  58. 58. Sheila Webber
  59. 59. Growing academic community Uses the VirtualWorlds list on Culture of openly sharing, discussing virtual world development and learning experiences. Academics from outside UK very welcome (geographic borders kinda irrelevant). Discuss on the list, or meet on the 2nd tuesday, evening, somewhere in-world (see the list). Next is December 8th. n.b. nearly all UK VW developers are on Twitter.
  60. 60. Alberto Avramidis
  61. 61. Who wants to be a (funding) millionaire? Roo Reynolds - Much development in UK academia is voluntary. But this can only go so far. Land, development time, curriculum integration, formal staff time. Need money, money, money ... So ... how does an academic get funding?
  62. 62. Uncertain times ahead in the education sector Conservative Party“So when I see Ed Balls blow hundreds of millions on so-called ‘curriculum development’on consultancies, on quangos like the QCDA and BECTA ...”David Cameron MP, Conservative Party conference, October 2009
  63. 63. Everyone is economising ... Howard Gees Doom and gloom at education conferences. Credit crunch. Massive deficit. British currency looks good - but only against Iceland’s. “Golden age” of education funding may be ending.
  64. 64. Generic advice for proposal writers Follow the remit of the call. Don’t act surprised if you don’t and your bid is rejected. Imagine that your writing will be marked by three Mister Men: ‘Mr Cynical’, ‘Mr Grumpy’, and ‘Mr WTF Is A Virtual World?’ Cover all of “What, Why, When, How, Where, Who” (Just So Stories, Kipling, 1902). Exit strategy and legacy. What will yours be? How does your project make the funding body look good? (Uncertain times; they need good PR too). How does it fit in with their remit? Check that no-one else has done it first...
  65. 65. Good approaches to take How much time, money, CO2 emissions saved (reference credible data) by doing things in virtual worlds. Re-use of existing virtual world structures and content. Bringing “stuff” created by old projects e.g. Digitisation, TLTP, eLib, NOF, into a virtual world (justify why). Learning enhancement (reference relevant literature, project reports). How can other learning providers use this, replicate it. Making useful stuff available for future re-use.
  66. 66. Bad approaches to take Develop something in a virtual world, then ask for a £10,000 budget for real world international travel. Ignoring other technologies. Say why using a virtual world is better than other software and systems. Forgetting to show the number of learners who will benefit, and how they will benefit. Not rapidly disseminating. Share stuff this year, not next. Using buzzwords ...
  67. 67. Virtual world proposal cliche bingo!Form any line of 5 words or phrases for an instant funding proposal rejection :-) Cyber- Digital Game The future Tron university natives New VirtualCybersex Game Super Mario technology student Hyper- Online Noob Game Furry reality dating The VLE isVirtuality The Matrix Game Cool dead Virtual Skins Cyberspace Hairstyle Game Reality
  68. 68. And finally - a quick plug ...
  69. 69. Choosing the best virtual world for your teaching needs JISC Innovating e-Learning 2009 Online Conference November 24th - 27th Rockett

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A presentation at the National Workshop on Teaching in Immersive Worlds in the University of Ulster, November 2009.


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