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Virtual Worlds. 
What is 
the point? 
Coventry University 
Steve Cadman http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/2653563318/ 
www.virtualworldwatch.net
These slides look a little familiar...
VWW: Virtual World Watch 
“Snapshots” of who is using 
virtual worlds, and how, in UK 
universities and colleges. 
Unexpectedly large numbers of 
downloads. 
Funded by Eduserv from 2007 
to 2010. 
Self-funded for the next few 
years. 
www.virtualworldwatch.net 
Roo Reynolds http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/493815619/
why use a virtual world 
in education? 
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 
DadenMedia http://www.flickr.com/photos/dadenmedia/2984446235/
Virtual World USE 
by UK academics
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. 
Nursing training. 
Midwifery. 
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/
Physics 
SGVW Team, University of Ulster http://www.flickr.com/photos/33422226@N04/
Midwifery 
Kate Boardman http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattanhurnung/4115602444/
Mechanics and history 
Kate Boardman http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattanhurnung/4398763759/
Micro level stuff 
Hiro Sheridan http://www.flickr.com/photos/hirosheridan/524368209/
Simulation (Quarry) 
University of Derby / Institute of Quarrying
Attitude problems with virtual worlds 
(often applicable to other technologies in 
education)
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 
newspaper stories.”
“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 
game is. 
2.What’s wrong with games anyway? 
3.Some games used in teaching and 
learning. 
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 
virtual worlds. 
There are many virtual 
worlds. 
Search facilities range from 
basic to non-existent. 
“Stuff” is inconsistently 
labelled. 
There is no ‘google’. 
John Kirriemuir http://www.flickr.com/photos/silversprite/2346333322/
“There’s no-one here.” Um, so?
OH no! Something bad! 
“The Internet is bad.” 
“If you go online you will 
immediately encounter sex, 
nudity, perversion, wherever 
you go.” 
“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.” 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/procsilas/378146339/
Academic says no 
“I don’t have the time to 
learn new stuff.” 
“What I use works fine for 
me.” 
“I’m retiring soon so it’s 
not worth it.” 
“It’ll never catch on.” 
“In my day...” 
Pelican http://www.flickr.com/photos/pelican/2147350197/
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.

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Virtual Worlds. What is the point?

  • 1. Virtual Worlds. What is the point? Coventry University Steve Cadman http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/2653563318/ www.virtualworldwatch.net
  • 2. These slides look a little familiar...
  • 3. VWW: Virtual World Watch “Snapshots” of who is using virtual worlds, and how, in UK universities and colleges. Unexpectedly large numbers of downloads. Funded by Eduserv from 2007 to 2010. Self-funded for the next few years. www.virtualworldwatch.net Roo Reynolds http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/493815619/
  • 4. why use a virtual world in education? What is the point?
  • 5. The death of travel to learn? Quoting Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, Open University
  • 6. CO2 and global warming Timothy Hamilton http://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1/205117457/
  • 7. Tomorrow we are all screwed... Dipesh Soneji http://www.flickr.com/photos/dipeshsoneji/1019702760/
  • 9. Build what you need... PF Anderson http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosefirerising/456065514/
  • 10. Blend Info and social Sheila Webber http://www.flickr.com/photos/23396182@N00/4259812586/
  • 11. Mix up your media N Speller http://www.flickr.com/photos/spellers/2833505085/
  • 12. ...increasingly, any media Annabeth Robinson http://www.flickr.com/photos/annamorphic/4382933824/
  • 13. Bleed in Geo-stuff, maps DadenMedia http://www.flickr.com/photos/dadenmedia/2984446235/
  • 14. Virtual World USE by UK academics
  • 15. 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.
  • 16. Main Subject areas of VW use Health and medicine. Nursing training. Midwifery. Health and safety training. Physics simulations e.g. wind turbines. Information science theory. Art and fashion.
  • 17. CRIME AND FORENSICS Sheila Webber http://www.flickr.com/photos/23396182@N00/4680574100/
  • 18. Physics SGVW Team, University of Ulster http://www.flickr.com/photos/33422226@N04/
  • 19. Midwifery Kate Boardman http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattanhurnung/4115602444/
  • 20. Mechanics and history Kate Boardman http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattanhurnung/4398763759/
  • 21. Micro level stuff Hiro Sheridan http://www.flickr.com/photos/hirosheridan/524368209/
  • 22. Simulation (Quarry) University of Derby / Institute of Quarrying
  • 23. Attitude problems with virtual worlds (often applicable to other technologies in education)
  • 24. 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 newspaper stories.”
  • 25. “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 game is. 2.What’s wrong with games anyway? 3.Some games used in teaching and learning. 4.Psychological limitations: fun is dangerous, not useful? http://www.flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/103300924/
  • 26. wtf is going on?!! Bettina Tizzy http://www.flickr.com/photos/bettinatizzy/2308041401/
  • 27. Finding ‘stuff’ is hard Millions of people use virtual worlds. There are many virtual worlds. Search facilities range from basic to non-existent. “Stuff” is inconsistently labelled. There is no ‘google’. John Kirriemuir http://www.flickr.com/photos/silversprite/2346333322/
  • 29. OH no! Something bad! “The Internet is bad.” “If you go online you will immediately encounter sex, nudity, perversion, wherever you go.” “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/
  • 30. Tech support say “no.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/procsilas/378146339/
  • 31. Academic says no “I don’t have the time to learn new stuff.” “What I use works fine for me.” “I’m retiring soon so it’s not worth it.” “It’ll never catch on.” “In my day...” Pelican http://www.flickr.com/photos/pelican/2147350197/
  • 32. 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.

Editor's Notes

  1. Hello Coventry!
  2. 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.
  3. Virtual World Watch was originally funded by Eduserv, but has now moved on to an independent status. Exciting times ahead.
  4. Okay - onto the virtual world stuff now.
  5. 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.
  6. 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...
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. Build your own academic environment. Or use someone else’s. Or get your students to build it. Everything starts with a box...
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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
  14. A few examples of how virtual worlds are being used by academics.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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...
  20. The Virtual Printing Press, developed at Oxford. Zoom in, zoom out, wander around it, have a good look.
  21. 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.
  22. 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!
  23. It’s not all plain sailing. Here’s a few issues that crop up with virtual worlds.
  24. 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.
  25. 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
  26. It is really hard to find stuff in them. Everyone takes search and link for granted; in virtual worlds, search facilities are non-existent.
  27. 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.
  28. Less of a problem now in Universities than it used to be, but it still crops up.
  29. 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.