I have just returned from the 2008 eFest conference at SkyCity in Auckland. This conference brings together educators, instructional designers and many others interested in all forms of e-learning and blended learning in New Zealand.
As it was just over a year since Isa Goodman and I presented our thoughts on Second Life for education to eFest07, we spent a little while discussing how far the thinking around education in virtual worlds had come since then. Delivery of the NMIT island Koru was being eagerly anticipated at the last eFest and there were attendees who were highly sceptical of the value that this might bring to our students. A year later, our second island has arrived and for the first time we were able to present some real experiences of teaching real students in a real course using a blended approach which combines real and Second Life delivery. Toddles Lightworker, otherwise known in real life at Todd Cochrane has been demonstrating how this can be done effectively in a first year degree course, and he was able to join us in providing some personal observations on its effectiveness (Thank you Todd!).
While there are still doubters and sceptics within the community, Dr Scott Deiner inspired many with his from the University of Auckland inspired many with his presentation of the build which he has created for the delivery of course material to medical students, both with a simulated Intensive care unit and a sohpisticated HUD driven system to simulate in real time the pressures of an emergency unit. All members of the SLENZ team, and many in the audience, were inspired by the approach that Scott (otherwise known as Professor Noarlunga or just ‘the Prof’) is taking and the opportunities it creates for possible collaboration not only between medical students but also perhaps between nursing students as well.
Part of the purpose of the presentation was to highlight to interested educators the areas in which our literature review is suggesting that Second Life may add value to student learning and to encourage all to think of ways in which they might be able to contribute to the development of the SLENZ project. This will be the subject of a separate post over the next few days as the SLENZ team are just about to issue the request for proposals to work with us to develop learning activities to trial in Second Life.
One other bonus of eFest was meeting up with Dr Melanie Middlemiss, who is managing the ONGENS project. This project is a collaboration between the University of Otago and the the University of Canterbury and is looking to investigate the creation of a virtual grid for New Zealand to support the use of OpenSim. I have been investigating OpenSim over the last month and will post some of my intitial thoughts later.
So a final thanks to all who contributed to eFest, especially those who took the time to come to our presentations and to talk with us further about the project and Second Life in general. Great to meet up with some old SL friends (Iphi and DebZee) and also some new ones (Lianna) and some who I am sure will become friends over the next few months! And thanks to ITPNZ and all other sponsors of eFest and particularly to Amy for making it all happen! You did a grand job!