Category Archives: Online education

To use or not to use…..Viewer 2

I have just read this very interesting post from Sitearm discussing the pros and cons (well pros mostly!) of using Viewer2 with new student users of Second Life.  It certainly gave me food for thought as I reflect on my own experiences of teaching in SL this semester.

Our course this semester was taught partly in RL by me (on campus in the computer lab), partly in SL by a staff member (from a remote location)  and assisted in both places by a third on-campus staff member.  Each of us had our own ‘preferred viewer profile”.

I have yet to make a successful transition to V2.  Apart from early trials I have used it only when I have had no other option and it has not yet become intuitive for me.  I am still at the “where do I find xxxx?” and ‘grrrrr this sidebar!” stage.  A long term user of the old viewer, I eventually moved to Imprudence as I explored OpenSim and began the laborious process of exporting objects from Second Life.  My colleague, like Sitearm, saw the writing on the wall for the old viewers and made a conscious decision to learn and use Viewer 2 from its early days.  Although he also uses other TPVs particularly for exporting to and accessing OpenSim grids, he is an experienced and comfortable user of V2.  Our assistant has only ever used V2!

The students themselves came from two quite different programmes and with different levels of technical ability.  In  addition, some students from the IT degree programme had their own dedicated laptops (on which they have administrator rights) while the others only had access to the institutional computers (unless they downloaded at home on their own personal machines) which were locked down and ran only V2.  Just to complicate the issue a little more, some but not all of the IT students had already used Second Life and had v1.23 or some other TPV installed.

While it was clear that most of the students would be using V2, I chose not to enforce it as the ‘only’ viewer – partly because of my own preferences and partly as we would have no need for the additional functionality – moap for example. So at any time when an inworld class was happening, it was not unusual to have some students using V2,  some using v1.23, some using a different TPV and on occasion some switching from V1.23 on their laptop to V2 on the lab computer depending on what they were trying to achieve in Second Life.

Chaos? Maybe but nothing that seemed too problemmatic.  Yes, I struggled to help some students with basic V2 UI issues and yes, it was sometimes confusing for my remote colleague not knowing which viewer a student was working on but in general, it was a non-issue.  I liked to see the diversity in the classroom with those students who had a choice making their own decisions about what to use for which activity.

In the future?  I think it will depend on the students themselves but as next year’s offering will take us beyond Second Life into other virtual world grids I think I will be looking to have one of the TPVs as our ‘default’.  However, I have realised that I personally should update my V2 skills *sighs – perhaps I will come to love it!

Would love to hear your ‘viewer in the learning environment’ experiences!

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VLENZ is born….

Ever since the last few months of the SLENZ project last year, we have been hoping that we would be able to keep the team together in some way and make good use of all the good things we learnt and the skills we acquired.   Being a group of educators and virtual world enthusiasts scattered throughout New Zealand the obvious way to do that was virtually but we also needed an RL presence that would allow us to chase funding and gather donations.

Virtual Life Education New Zealand more usually known as VLENZ was conceived by the SLENZ team members and supporters as the natural successor to our successful project.  Thanks to the generosity of NMIT, we were able to pay the necessary fees to establish VLENZ Inc as an incorporated society which had its first AGM tonight.  Now the officers are confirmed we can register for charitable status which should be forthcoming in a few weeks.

We knew from the beginning that VLENZ would need to operate primarily within the virtual environment and various changes to the standard incorporated society rules were made to recognise that society members would meet as avatars rather than face to face – quite a challenge! At the AGM which I chaired tonight we needed to ensure that all the records were kept according to our rules,  particularly  those concerning attendance and confirming that the avatar truly represented an RL individual who was a voting VLENZ member. At the same time of course we had to protect the privacy of our avatar members in line with the SL Terms of Service.  I think we achieved it and I am left wondering how many others have been faced with this challenge and what their experiences have been.

But it has been worth it! We now have an officially constituted society  that is committed to exploring, supporting, mentoring, advising New Zealanders on as many aspects of education in MUVEs  as we can manage.  We have a broad skill set, a ton of experience and cartloads of enthusiasm and we are ready to boldly go!  But most of all we share a common sense that the use of multi -user virtual environments will  change forever the ways in which we teach and learn.

A new chapter

My interest in virtual worlds, and education, in them has been seriously re-energised by the happenings in the metaverse over the last few weeks.  As some of you will remember I spent a great deal of time and energy 2007-2009 as an evangelist for the use of virtual worlds to design and create engaging, exciting and useful educational opportunities for tertiary students.  (Bets used to be taken as to whether I could survive a meeting without mentioning Second Life! )

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SLENZ Project Development Roadmap – Background

This section provides a little background to the Development Roadmap. Please see the other postings for details of the three main phases.  If you would like a copy of the whole document please leave me a message and I will get it to you.

The Framework.
We considered that essentially the initial design and development of a project lent itself to three major phases outlined below. Each stage of each project would progress through all of the phases. Continue reading

Phase 1. Develop the Conceptual Understanding

Purpose:

This provides high level view of what the the project should achieve and why, the scope, the context, the participants, the method, the budget and the timeframe.  It may also include the measures by which success may be evaluated. In general it answers questions of the nature of – what is the general purpose of the project, who will be involved, why are we doing it etc.  Continue reading

Phase 2. Develop the Learning Narrative

Purpose:

This phase deals with the design of the learning experience and the activities that it contains.  This phase will be repeated for each stage of the project and identify where it is building on work from the previous stage.

Building on the work of the previous phase and using the Context Summary as a base, this phase will identify and describe, in some detail, the actual learning activities that will take place in support of the specified learning outcomes. One major purpose of this is to identify the resources that will be required.

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Phase 3. Develop and Implement the Technical Design

Purpose:

This phase deals with the design of all the resources required by the learning activities of the stage both those in and out of SL.  This phase will be repeated for each stage of the project and identify where it is building on work from the previous stage.

The purpose for this phase is to ensure that all resources needed to create the learning experience are identiifed, designed effectively and constructed.  Based on the learning activity or activities identified in the Develop the Learning Narrative phase, and on the list of required resources derived from that, this phase is primarily concerned with the questions around ‘How will we fulfill these requirements?and documents the final answers to those questions. It thus considers the design of all the resources that are required for the final construction both those that will be built in SL and those that won’t.

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SLENZ Project Development Roadmap

Much of my time over the last few weeks has been concerned with attempting to bring together disparate needs and views into a workable process for the development of a learning experience which is primarily but not completely delivered in Second Life. The process has been tough at times! but then the task is complex and there is very little previous experience or best practice reports to draw on.

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Catching up with SLENZ

I was horrified when I saw yesterday how long it was since I made a posting on this blog!  I can only blame it on having been so busy with the SLENZ project that I haven’t had time to write about it.  John Waugh has been blogging about SLENZ though and many other related things too 🙂

It has been an exciting time for the project.  We had a number of excellent proposals for pilot projects to be supported by SLENZ and great difficulty in choosing the two that we would work with.  We were very tempted to go with three pilots but our Project Steering Group, very wisely I am sure, encouraged us finally to go with only two! At least that way we know that we can fund them!  The pilots will be announced tomorrow and I am looking forward to working on them……after all the talk and the preparation, it will be soooo good to finally be building something real!

The literature review is almost complete and is with two external reviewers – we await there feedback with great interest.  It was a real challenge to try to bring together useful literature especially when there is so little as yet published in ‘academically recognised’ publications.  We made the decision that we had to include many non-traditional courses of information, such as blogs, mailing list postings and personal communications.  Even though they are not peer-reviewed as such, they include so many useful thoughts and guides to good practice, that to ignore them would have rendered the literature review fairly worthless in terms of informing the project.  It was particularly noticeable that much of the published research, although only a year or so old, was already out of date in terms of the where the technology is currently at.  It became clear, to me at least, that the lag between the conduct of research and its publication (often a problem in IT generally) is a major issue when attempting to gather valid data on a very rapidly evolving technology.  I wonder if there is a way of creating a ‘peer-review’ equivalent for blogs! It may be exactly what we need.

Speaking of believable blogs and bloggers,  I am always impressed by Steven Warburton’s Liquid Learning blog and try to check it out as frequently as I can.  His current posting, while both amusing and highly pertinent (I immediately recognised the herding cats situation he described!) gives some very useful ideas on how to ensure a successful tour of SL.  Compuslory reading if you are thinking of doing the same!

An opportunity for NZ educators…..

Today saw the issue of a very special request for proposals! Special if you happen to be interested in teaching in Second Life that is, and especially if you are currently teaching in a New Zealand tertiary institution.  The SLENZ project was set up to design, develop, build and pilot learning activities that could add educational value to the experience of NZ tertiary students. In order to do this, the project team needs to work with at lest two groups of NZ tertiary educators, preferably spread across the sector and with access to a reasonable number of students (not too many and not too few!).

Today the SLENZ team issued their call for proposals from educators who would like to work with the development team.  Full details are here .  Realising that there may well be individuals out there with a passion but, as yet, no community, the SLENZ team are happy to help put individuals in touch with each other in the hope of creating a working team.  So if you are interested just get in touch with either Terry Neal (terry.neal@blendedsolutions.co.nz) or with Clare Atkins (clare.atkins@nmit.ac.nz) or of course just leave a comment on this blog and I will get back to you 🙂

John Waugh has also posted about this today on the SLENZ blog.