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Virtual Worlds: 
Their use in UK learning 
and teaching
Virtual World Watch 
 Funded by Eduserv (thanks @andypowe11 et al) for a year 
from mid-October 2008. 
 Started tracking Virtual World activities (originally just Second 
Life) in UK academia in the summer of 2007. 
 Five such reports done, which contain a swirl of informal and 
formal information on these activities. 
 Latest report released in mid February 2009. 
 Starting to build up the resource base with other “stuff”. 
 Huge fun, seeing a niche technology expand within education.
www.virtualworldwatch.net
Summary of Snapshot 5 (and since then) 
 All bar one UK university has some evidence of Second Life 
“activity” i.e. research, design, study, teaching or learning. 
 Building a replica of your campus in SL just for the sake of it is 
rare now (hurrah!). 
 Activities diverse, but newer universities tend to be more into it 
than older ones. 
 Huge amount of duplicated work going on across universities in 
investigating use of Second Life in teaching and learning :-( 
 Major obstacles are the (linked) issues of attitude and 
evidence.
Large areas of darkness 
No activity or unreported 
activity?
Reported activity in UK universities (generally HE)
Reported activity in UK colleges (generally FE)
Data extraction from survey responses (January 2009)
Inquiry skills
Studying SL as a learning environment 
“A pilot study looking at Interprofessional education in Second Life.” 
- Coventry 
“Determining whether SL is a suitable environment within which to 
develop students' business enterprise skills.” - Leeds 
“Through the Open Habitat project, we are piloting various 
approaches to teaching and learning in Second Life and 
OpenSim.” - Leeds Metropolitan 
“This project investigated pedagogical issues related to teaching 
within 3D virtual worlds using Second Life as the delivery 
platform.” - Ulster
Virtual worlds as simulations of dangerous environments
Derby 
“A virtual quarry in 
conjunction with the 
Institute of Quarrying. 
This work is intended to 
replicate real quarrying 
situations: dangerous 
overhangs; explosions; 
hazardous working 
vehicles. 
Students move around 
the quarry identifying 
those hazards.”
West of England 
“The witnesses go 
down to the simulation 
set and the 
investigators stay at 
the gathering point. 
The tutor runs the 
simulation through – in 
this case a fork lift 
truck accident in a 
small warehouse which 
the witness students 
can view through their 
avatars.”
Health and medicine
Medical equipment created by Glasgow Caledonian 
“A simulation of a full 
working model of an X-ray 
machine. 
This allows for safe 
practice; is flexible 
either to be used in a 
class or for self study. 
It is scaleable - only 
one exists on campus 
but we can copy the 
simulation as many 
times as we wish.”
Machinima 
“A section of the island is designated for film making 
(machinima), with an adaptable diorama and terraformable 
landscape for creating sets.” - JISC RSC (Northern) 
“A group of media students are undertaking a project on 
creating machinima and guidance on the use of the event 
simulator described above as part of their interactive media 
course.” - West of England
LIVE project
Staff introduction 
“We held a number of induction events to allow interested 
members of staff to familiarise themselves with the 
environment.” - Leeds 
“Teaching our staff about virtual worlds and the possibilities of 
these as a learning and teaching environment.” - Glasgow 
Caledonian 
“Currently exploring SL with a small group for staff to look at the 
feasibility of using SL to exchange and work with other 
educational establishments or projects.” – Strode College
INCORE project 
(Norther Island conflict)
Just to complicate things: Other worlds … 
Playstation Home
Metaplace 
University of 
the West of 
Scotland 
- Web-based 
- Flash 
- extensible 
- avatars 
- scripting 
Isometric view 
Easy to work in 
(Sims meets 
Second Life?)
OpenSim 
“We expect to see more interest in OpenSim, and 
possibly Wonderland - emphasising the need to keep 
the ‘intelligence’ of any solution out of any one 
particular virtual world. We also still see no ‘Second 
Life killer’ out there.” - Daden Limited 
“The latest OpenSim server builds offer outstanding 
performance, and are rapidly maturing and becoming 
reliable for everyday use. Porting objects and scripts 
(but not all of them) from Second Life to OpenSim is 
now possible.” - Plymouth
Educators in World of Warcraft …
Attitude
“IT services say no.”
Student developments in 
Second Life
But in the same university... 
"On top of this my computer in my office is completely 
locked down by UICS and I can do nothing, I am not 
allowed to have Skype...I cannot use Elluminate, I cannot 
use virtual classrooms, and so on. 
My research into virtual worlds (Second Life) is done at 
home and I had to buy a new computer for there because 
my work one has no access, is far too slow...and it is not 
allowed anyway."
VIEWS of the future 
http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/rowin/2009/03/27/111/ 
"Lack of support from institutional IT departments for VW-related 
activities, even to the point of refusing to unblock the 
ports necessary to actually run them. 
Some institutions apparently blame JISC/Janet policies for 
this, but the inconsistent application of these supposed 
policies suggests that there might be other reasons for 
this…"
Scepticism for the sake of it
For lots of other people ... 
Proof or evidence 
...that using Virtual Worlds for specific teaching and 
learning applications is better than using some other 
technique or technology. 
* Funding applications * Students, bossy parents 
* Internal authority to use * Peers
Evidence
For IT Services ... 
MANY UK Universities have used Second Life for a very 
wide range of teaching and learning activities without 
ANY incident or apocalyptic event. 
So why can't you? Be honest ... 
Laziness? Control freakery? 
Mis-allocation of IT funding? Neo-ludditism?
Made in just 9 months from 1 egg and 1 sperm …
… so why does a bunch 
of words take so much 
longer to get published?
Adventures of Yoshikawa
Survey and report release dates 
Mid May 2009 
 Snapshot #6 
 Second Life and alternative virtual worlds in education #1 
Start August 2009 
 Snapshot #7 
Mid October 2009 
 Snapshot #8 
 Second Life and alternative virtual worlds in education #2 
 Virtual worlds ongoing research
In it for the long haul ... 
VWW until at least the end of 2010. Focus stays on UK activities. 
Mixed funding model. 
Adding lobbying to research and dissemination activities. 
Still doing: 
 Weekly podcasts. 
 Snapshot reports. 
 Adding UK content to resource directory.
VWW needs your help ... 
Say what you are doing. Free publicity! Make your funders happy! 
Advance your career! 
Oh, and the chance to win a book token. 
In fact, if you have any other media e.g. blogs, YouTube videos, 
can promote those through the VWW website. 
Evidence of teaching and learning activities especially welcome. 
Weekly podcasts, gaining a cult following. Can do over Skype, 
phone ... or later today. Takes 15 minutes.

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Virtual Worlds in UK Education

  • 1. Virtual Worlds: Their use in UK learning and teaching
  • 2. Virtual World Watch  Funded by Eduserv (thanks @andypowe11 et al) for a year from mid-October 2008.  Started tracking Virtual World activities (originally just Second Life) in UK academia in the summer of 2007.  Five such reports done, which contain a swirl of informal and formal information on these activities.  Latest report released in mid February 2009.  Starting to build up the resource base with other “stuff”.  Huge fun, seeing a niche technology expand within education.
  • 4. Summary of Snapshot 5 (and since then)  All bar one UK university has some evidence of Second Life “activity” i.e. research, design, study, teaching or learning.  Building a replica of your campus in SL just for the sake of it is rare now (hurrah!).  Activities diverse, but newer universities tend to be more into it than older ones.  Huge amount of duplicated work going on across universities in investigating use of Second Life in teaching and learning :-(  Major obstacles are the (linked) issues of attitude and evidence.
  • 5. Large areas of darkness No activity or unreported activity?
  • 6. Reported activity in UK universities (generally HE)
  • 7. Reported activity in UK colleges (generally FE)
  • 8. Data extraction from survey responses (January 2009)
  • 10. Studying SL as a learning environment “A pilot study looking at Interprofessional education in Second Life.” - Coventry “Determining whether SL is a suitable environment within which to develop students' business enterprise skills.” - Leeds “Through the Open Habitat project, we are piloting various approaches to teaching and learning in Second Life and OpenSim.” - Leeds Metropolitan “This project investigated pedagogical issues related to teaching within 3D virtual worlds using Second Life as the delivery platform.” - Ulster
  • 11. Virtual worlds as simulations of dangerous environments
  • 12. Derby “A virtual quarry in conjunction with the Institute of Quarrying. This work is intended to replicate real quarrying situations: dangerous overhangs; explosions; hazardous working vehicles. Students move around the quarry identifying those hazards.”
  • 13. West of England “The witnesses go down to the simulation set and the investigators stay at the gathering point. The tutor runs the simulation through – in this case a fork lift truck accident in a small warehouse which the witness students can view through their avatars.”
  • 15.
  • 16. Medical equipment created by Glasgow Caledonian “A simulation of a full working model of an X-ray machine. This allows for safe practice; is flexible either to be used in a class or for self study. It is scaleable - only one exists on campus but we can copy the simulation as many times as we wish.”
  • 17. Machinima “A section of the island is designated for film making (machinima), with an adaptable diorama and terraformable landscape for creating sets.” - JISC RSC (Northern) “A group of media students are undertaking a project on creating machinima and guidance on the use of the event simulator described above as part of their interactive media course.” - West of England
  • 19. Staff introduction “We held a number of induction events to allow interested members of staff to familiarise themselves with the environment.” - Leeds “Teaching our staff about virtual worlds and the possibilities of these as a learning and teaching environment.” - Glasgow Caledonian “Currently exploring SL with a small group for staff to look at the feasibility of using SL to exchange and work with other educational establishments or projects.” – Strode College
  • 20. INCORE project (Norther Island conflict)
  • 21. Just to complicate things: Other worlds … Playstation Home
  • 22. Metaplace University of the West of Scotland - Web-based - Flash - extensible - avatars - scripting Isometric view Easy to work in (Sims meets Second Life?)
  • 23. OpenSim “We expect to see more interest in OpenSim, and possibly Wonderland - emphasising the need to keep the ‘intelligence’ of any solution out of any one particular virtual world. We also still see no ‘Second Life killer’ out there.” - Daden Limited “The latest OpenSim server builds offer outstanding performance, and are rapidly maturing and becoming reliable for everyday use. Porting objects and scripts (but not all of them) from Second Life to OpenSim is now possible.” - Plymouth
  • 24. Educators in World of Warcraft …
  • 27. Student developments in Second Life
  • 28. But in the same university... "On top of this my computer in my office is completely locked down by UICS and I can do nothing, I am not allowed to have Skype...I cannot use Elluminate, I cannot use virtual classrooms, and so on. My research into virtual worlds (Second Life) is done at home and I had to buy a new computer for there because my work one has no access, is far too slow...and it is not allowed anyway."
  • 29. VIEWS of the future http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/rowin/2009/03/27/111/ "Lack of support from institutional IT departments for VW-related activities, even to the point of refusing to unblock the ports necessary to actually run them. Some institutions apparently blame JISC/Janet policies for this, but the inconsistent application of these supposed policies suggests that there might be other reasons for this…"
  • 30. Scepticism for the sake of it
  • 31. For lots of other people ... Proof or evidence ...that using Virtual Worlds for specific teaching and learning applications is better than using some other technique or technology. * Funding applications * Students, bossy parents * Internal authority to use * Peers
  • 33. For IT Services ... MANY UK Universities have used Second Life for a very wide range of teaching and learning activities without ANY incident or apocalyptic event. So why can't you? Be honest ... Laziness? Control freakery? Mis-allocation of IT funding? Neo-ludditism?
  • 34. Made in just 9 months from 1 egg and 1 sperm …
  • 35. … so why does a bunch of words take so much longer to get published?
  • 36.
  • 38.
  • 39. Survey and report release dates Mid May 2009  Snapshot #6  Second Life and alternative virtual worlds in education #1 Start August 2009  Snapshot #7 Mid October 2009  Snapshot #8  Second Life and alternative virtual worlds in education #2  Virtual worlds ongoing research
  • 40. In it for the long haul ... VWW until at least the end of 2010. Focus stays on UK activities. Mixed funding model. Adding lobbying to research and dissemination activities. Still doing:  Weekly podcasts.  Snapshot reports.  Adding UK content to resource directory.
  • 41. VWW needs your help ... Say what you are doing. Free publicity! Make your funders happy! Advance your career! Oh, and the chance to win a book token. In fact, if you have any other media e.g. blogs, YouTube videos, can promote those through the VWW website. Evidence of teaching and learning activities especially welcome. Weekly podcasts, gaining a cult following. Can do over Skype, phone ... or later today. Takes 15 minutes.

Editor's Notes

  1. Lots of responses, as ever, from UK universities.
  2. Activity in UK colleges, and other Further Education institutions, has been negligible. Having said that, there seems to be some more activity very recently, but it is still only a tiny fraction of that found in UK universities.
  3. Here is some of the data (removing personal and other information) from most of the current snapshot survey. It shouldn’t be taken as cast in stone, as the situation with most institutions is constantly changing. Things to notice: Most respondents thought they would be doing virtual world activities next year as well. Teaching and learning activities were mentioned in most responses. Second Life is still the predominant virtual world (albeit this was the partial focus of the survey), though OpenSim is gaining significant interest).
  4. The quarry simulator at the University of Derby.
  5. The School of Health & Bioscience at the University of East London has a wet lab with a PCR experiment.
  6. And this year may very well see the main discussion be whether to stick with Second Life, or to use OpenSim. Several universities and academics are looking at it at the moment.