Yes - most of them appeared in a presentation a few months ago at Sheffield University. Not much changes in virtual worlds in that time - and indeed, virtual worlds have been around for many years themselves. As of this Wednesday coming, Second Life is seven years old, for example.
Virtual World Watch was originally funded by Eduserv, but has now moved on to an independent status. Exciting times ahead.
Okay - onto the virtual world stuff now.
For a myriad of reasons, more people don’t travel to physically learn in the same room as other people, or the educator. PhD students working remotely are a good example of this.
We’re supposed to be doing less travelling to save the planet. But there’s another good reason for doing less travelling to events, and finally using ICT more...
Tomorrow is the “Emergency Budget”. Two words which are ominous at the best of times, but worst when put together. Add to that various reviews of education, and it doesn’t look good for the amount of funding going into learning and teaching. Cheaper alternatives may be required to the more traditional modes.
There’s many different ways to communicate within a virtual world - text, voice, gesture, private message and so forth. And most of this can be recorded, either in-world or using tools, for replay, debriefing, note taking or analysis later. At events in Second Life, the backchannel can be awesome (and unlike twitter, there’s no restriction on text length).
Build your own academic environment. Or use someone else’s. Or get your students to build it. Everything starts with a box...
This is a meeting on 7th December 2009 on "supporting learners with information services in SL at Edinburgh University", held on Infolit iSchool. Here, the IS (Information Services) van from Edinburgh University, which offers a range of services for people who encounter it, makes an appearance.
Virtual Worlds in education are, when used properly, about effective communication. Of information, ideas, speech, conversation, concepts, whatever. A good virtual world allows the presenter to communicate in the most effective way. Here, a powerpoint presentation is being fed into SL, with the audience (who could be anywhere in the world) able to engage with the speaker.
Yes, that’s the BBC iPlayer. You can stick web content on a prim (the basic building block of Second Life), and do things with flash as well. Nice one, Annabeth.
This seems to be becoming the year of geo-data (finally), with apps such as Foursquare for mobile devices, open data initiatives, Bing maps becoming 3D and geocaching finally breaking out of its niche and becoming more well-known. Virtual Worlds aren’t being left behind, with some organisations experimenting with linking real-world geo-data to stuff in virtual worlds
A few examples of how virtual worlds are being used by academics.
Some headline facts from Virtual World Watch - which are almost as true now as they have largely been for the past few years. Le sigh.
Bearing in mind that this is from the sample of responses to snapshots, and therefore may not be representative of UK VW activity as a whole.
There’s a few UK universities who have used Second Life in particular for crime and forensic training. Here, the University of East London have created a situation where people can be trained in examining crime scenes.
At the University of Ulster, the virtual world team have built a medieval cannon. Using principles of physics, the distance the flaming barrel can be thrown depends on a number of variable factors. At Bromley College, wind turbines designed by students can be tested for efficiency.
A perhaps surprisingly popular subject domain, with 4+ UK universities alone creating midwifery birthing simulations in Second Life. Note the coloured balls, which are actionable. Oh, and if you think this isn’t realistic, then have a go - remember that avatars move and make noises...
The Virtual Printing Press, developed at Oxford. Zoom in, zoom out, wander around it, have a good look.
There’s a lot of genetic, biological and chemical stuff in virtual worlds. Makes sense; you can make things, explore them, rotate them, and so on in a quick, cheap and safe manner.
Cheap to build and safe. Trainees can sit at home and wander around (in the simulation), or practice scenarios. Once they’re sufficiently trained up - THEN they can put on a hard hat and go into the real thing!
It’s not all plain sailing. Here’s a few issues that crop up with virtual worlds.
Which virtual world to choose is an issue. Second Life is by far the most popular, and has the most educational traction, but it isn’t problem-free; experiences and attitudes vary.
This is not a heavily controlled environment. People can create avatars, stylise them, move around, explore things, fly, communicate, create things. If this is a problem, then maybe virtual worlds aren’t for you and you need to check out something with much less functionality and options for users. s
It is really hard to find stuff in them. Everyone takes search and link for granted; in virtual worlds, search facilities are non-existent.
So? There’s no-one in your local university at 1am. Or in lecture hall 3b for most of the 24 hour day. Does this mean they aren’t useful?
You need to go into a virtual world with a purpose. Without a purpose will have you wondering what to do next as soon as you are inside.
Less of a problem now in Universities than it used to be, but it still crops up.
Some of the reasons academics come out with for not considering virtual worlds. The ‘it’ll never catch on’ one is especially good, as some academics have been using virtual worlds for several years now.
Virtual Worlds. What is the point?
Steve Cadman http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/2653563318/
VWW: Virtual World Watch
“Snapshots” of who is using
virtual worlds, and how, in UK
universities and colleges.
Unexpectedly large numbers of
Funded by Eduserv from 2007
Self-funded for the next few
Roo Reynolds http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/493815619/
why use a virtual world
What is the point?
The death of travel to learn?
Quoting Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, Open University
CO2 and global warming
Timothy Hamilton http://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1/205117457/
Tomorrow we are all screwed...
Dipesh Soneji http://www.flickr.com/photos/dipeshsoneji/1019702760/
John Kirriemuir http://www.flickr.com/photos/silversprite/492471374/
Build what you need...
PF Anderson http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosefirerising/456065514/
Blend Info and social
Sheila Webber http://www.flickr.com/photos/23396182@N00/4259812586/
Mix up your media
N Speller http://www.flickr.com/photos/spellers/2833505085/
...increasingly, any media
Annabeth Robinson http://www.flickr.com/photos/annamorphic/4382933824/
Bleed in Geo-stuff, maps
Current State of PLAY
• 95%+ of UK academics who use VWs use Second Life.
• (newish) Every UK university has done something in VWs.
• Activity in UK colleges much patchier.
• Some, but not much, overlap with academic communities
who use other technologies e.g. Blackboard, digital games.
• Steadily growing research base of materials.
• Difficulty in quickly/simply showing benefits of virtual
worlds to colleagues, students, noobs underlying problem.
Main Subject areas of VW use
Health and medicine.
Health and safety training.
Physics simulations e.g. wind turbines.
Information science theory.
Art and fashion.
CRIME AND FORENSICS
Sheila Webber http://www.flickr.com/photos/23396182@N00/4680574100/
SGVW Team, University of Ulster http://www.flickr.com/photos/33422226@N04/
Kate Boardman http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattanhurnung/4115602444/
Mechanics and history
Kate Boardman http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattanhurnung/4398763759/
University of Derby / Institute of Quarrying
Attitude problems with virtual worlds
(often applicable to other technologies in
Second Life: EMBRACE or AVOID?
“It’s easy to use.”
“There’s loads of free stuff in there already.”
“There’s lots of other academics in my subject area using it.”
“Been around for many years, so looks solid.”
“It’s hard to use.”
“Bloody expensive to get a decent chunk of land.”
“Academics I know have been scared off it because of
“It’s just a game!”
Things wrong with the ‘game’ thing:
1.It isn’t (what’s the game objective if
it is?). You don’t understand what a
2.What’s wrong with games anyway?
3.Some games used in teaching and
4.Psychological limitations: fun is
dangerous, not useful? http://www.flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/103300924/
wtf is going on?!!
Bettina Tizzy http://www.flickr.com/photos/bettinatizzy/2308041401/
Finding ‘stuff’ is hard
Millions of people use
There are many virtual
Search facilities range from
basic to non-existent.
“Stuff” is inconsistently
There is no ‘google’.
John Kirriemuir http://www.flickr.com/photos/silversprite/2346333322/
OH no! Something bad!
“The Internet is bad.”
“If you go online you will
immediately encounter sex,
nudity, perversion, wherever
“University students must be
kept away from it.”
(Rather than teach them how to
deal with it in all forms of life).
Sari Choche http://www.flickr.com/photos/sari-coche/2537936209/
Tech support say “no.”
Academic says no
“I don’t have the time to
learn new stuff.”
“What I use works fine for
“I’m retiring soon so it’s
not worth it.”
“It’ll never catch on.”
“In my day...”
Now your turn (if you want)
Go into Second Life with a purpose. An event, a group
meeting, a specific list of locations to explore.
Allow an hour (yes, 60 minutes of your life) to edit your
avatar and get used to flying around.
Try all forms of communication.
Trying clicking on interesting stuff to see what happens.
Do physical stuff; ride a fairwheel, go skydiving, drop in at a
pub, go disco dancing, try on some free costumes.