SLENZ PROJECT EVALUATION, VLENZ 165, Mar 10, 2010

SLENZ PROJECT EVALUATION RELEASED

SL Research project ‘successful’ but

marred by technical difficulties  …

Full PDF of Evaluation Report available here

Education conference delegates view a Birthing Room

The SLENZ team achieved “a remarkable success in creating and delivering” the core of the SLENZ Project, according to the official evaluation report of the $NZ500,000, Second Life  research programme released today.

This was despite the fact that both the project and student/educator learning  and engagement  had, at times,  been hampered  by  technical  challenges and difficulties during the 18-month long project, said Michael Winter, the independent evaluator of the project. He is  a veteran educator and senior researcher with  CORE Education, of Christchurch, New Zealand.

At the core of the project were two builds – a Foundation Learning Centre and a Birthing Centre – which were used for virtual world teaching as part of the project to determine the benefits or otherwise of virtual world education, and how these benefits, if any, could best be harnessed.

“The creation and effective employment of the two builds is a great success of the team,” Winter said. “In the process, the project team established a valuable corpus of experience in developing and using virtual world resources for tertiary education.”

The pilot programmes, Winter said, had both increased the engagement of learners with a familiar game like environment where learning may intentionally be a product of serious play; had been successful in creating experiential learning situations not available in ‘real life’;  had had only limited success with providing the  opportunity to learn the skills necessary to operate socially, technically, and ethically in an online global virtual world;   but had  provided an opportunity to “experience and practice collaborative, cross-cultural problem solving in social networking environments.

Although the report   appears a little short on hard facts, figures and comparative measurements it contains much  interesting anecdotal evidence from both students and educators and the conclusions reached  by Winter should be helpful to all  contemplating  or launching a new educational programme  within a Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) such as Second Life.

Michael Winter

Winter said  that  the “success of the project”, which incorporated Foundation (Bridging) Learning and Midwifery Education pilot programmes, had  largely been due to the project management skills of the real life Project Manager (Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions) who  had been responsible for managing the budget, interpersonal communications, and ensuring that timelines were adhered to and deadlines met.

Winter  also singled out the  Project Developer (Aaron Griffths, of Fxual  Education Services)  for special mention.  “As far as the design and development of the builds are concerned, the Project Developer almost single-handedly achieved a remarkable success with both builds,” Winter said. “He was able to incorporate the differing needs of both the Foundation and Midwifery educators, and in many cases produced aesthetically pleasing and functional designs. The ongoing process of development generally met the required deadlines, although sometimes at some cost in terms of stress.”

Terry Neal

Winter  made a  number of recommendations for future projects exploring the use of virtual worlds in education, which should be useful to MUVE developers and researchers around the world.  These included:

  • The Project Team, and Lead Educators at each institution should become familiar with the IT processes, and strike up an ongoing working relationship with members of the IT team. This could be greatly facilitated by the identification of a senior manager to act as a champion of the project within the institution.
  • Clear identification of the hardware and network needs required effectively to run the virtual world on the multiple computers within a particular institution. This would include addressing network security and fire walling issues.
  • Clear communication with students who will be using the virtual environment off-site regarding hardware and software requirements to access and make use of all the features of the virtual world.
  • An indication to students of the broadband requirements and hardware specifications to run the virtual world effectively on their own home computers, including connection speed, and the likely impact on broadband usage.

    Aaron Griffiths

  • Give more attention and time to ensure that users become fully familiar with using Second Life. This could involve a more thorough orientation process including working with buddies experienced in Second Life.
  • Clear indication to students of expectations in terms of their participation and learning outcomes when using the builds.
  • Ensure that each stage of the build actively involves and engages learners, and avoids them spending time “just looking”.

Summaries

Foundation Learning pilot

In his  summary of his findings on the Manukau Institute of  Technology Foundation Studies pilot programme, led by lead educator,  Merle Lemon,   Winter noted that  the Foundation build had provided a rich environment for learners to develop their job-hunting skills, despite criticism of its external appearance.

“It provided the opportunity for students to review material they had learned in face-to-face sessions, and to practice dressing appropriately for, and taking part in, interviews,” he said, but “for many participants, the experience was marred by technical difficulties, which highlighted the need for careful planning and good collaboration with the IT department before introducing virtual world learning into on-site programmes.”

The  MIT staff, Winter said,  were generally keen to be involved in future work with virtual worlds, but stressed the need to resolve technical issues.

Midwifery Education pilot

In his summary of the Otago Polytechnic Midwifery pilot programme, led by lead educator Sarah Stewart,  Winter said the two completed stages of the Midwifery build had represented “a significant success of the project”.

He, however,  again noted technical problems involving both hardware and connections to the internet  -  as well as navigation difficulties within Second Life by both  students and tutors -as hampering the results in this distance education part of the SLENZ Project.

On the question of user navigation,  he said,  “It is likely that a longer and more careful period of orientation might help participants overcome these difficulties.”

But he said, “Those students that accessed the build, and who were confident with the environment, reported a high degree of engagement and enjoyment of the experience, especially in working through the scenario with a buddy. They found this experience removed some of the stress, compared with face-to-face role-play. “

Visitors look over the Foundation learning build

Second Life Financials/Future, VLENZ No 164, March 08, 2010

SECOND LIFE Financials/future

Second Life still going from

strength to strength …

and Philip Rosedale on the future

Roleplaying - just one of the many attractions of Second Life.

For the doomsayers who keep denigrating Second Life, the latest figures from that world – now  a few weeks old – demonstrate just how  successful  the Lindens  are with their  world created  by their residents.

Of course,  there will always be doomsayers.  Critics, however, are very useful in honing  the product which the Lindens  appear to be always be changing, often to the chagrin of their longtime residents, who are forced to adapt to new technology such as the latest viewer, which  is a little difficult to adapt to, particularly if one is a longtime user.

There are still problems with the world but  compared to yesteryear they are few and far between and most of us have learned to happily – or sometimes unhappily – live with them.

You may have read the latest figures for Second Life but despite the critics – and there are a number – they are worth repeating.

In 2009 the Second Life economy, despite  the hiatus in the world economy,   rose 65 percent  against the previous year to $US567 million while gross resident earnings  recorded  11 percent  growth to $US55 million, mainly through user-created, services, merchandise, and  virtual goods. The latter represented the sum of all US dollars transferred “out” of the Second Life economy by Second Life residents, and into PayPal accounts, and then to real life bank accounts and wallets, and is believed to represent profits (95 percent) above the costs of earning the Second Life dollars within Second Life, but does not include real world costs.

Other highlights for the Second Life economy in 2009, as reported by Linden Labs, were:

Financial

The total amount of virtual currency in circulation reached L$6.95 billion, growth of 23 percent over December, 2008.

Financials:

  • The US Dollar value of $L in circulation totaled $US26.5 million in December, 2009.
  • Sales of User Generated virtual items on Xstreet SL, reached $L1.6 billion or $US6.1 million, growth of 74 percent over 2008.
  • The total US dollar value of all Linden dollars traded on the LindeX™ currency exchange in 2009 reached $US115 million in value, 7 percent  growth over 2008.
  • The total US dollar value of all Linden dollars traded on the Xstreet SL™ currency exchange in 2009 reached $US1.5 million in value, 169 percent growth over 2008.

Usage:

  • Residents spent 481 million hours in Second Life in 2009, 21 percent growth over 2008.
  • User hours lost to downtime as a portion of total user hours fell 66 percent to a best-ever low of 0.19 percent  for the whole year.
  • Monthly Repeat Logins reached an all-time high of 769,000 in December 2009, 15 percent growth over December, 2008.

Land:

  • Resident-owned regions reached 23,900 in December 2009, up 6 percent over December, 2008.
  • Total Resident-owned land (including Mainland) reached 1.85 billion square meters in December 2009, up 7 percent over December 2008.

Gross Resident Earnings figures:

  • The Small Business segment  represented 47 percent – the largest proportion – of the total dollar value of earnings.
  • More than 50 accounts earned more than $US100,000 each.
  • The top 25 accounts, as a group, earned about $US12 million.
  • Roughly 98 percent of the Gross Resident Earnings ($US55 million) in 2009 were from accounts with recent activity,  suggesting that the majority of Gross Resident Earnings in 2009 were from active, current Residents, not from the liquidation of in world assets.

And the future as seen by Philip Rosedale…

51 minutes

VLENZ Update, No 161, February 02, 2010

VLENZ PROJECT

Steering Committee named

for  new VLENZ Group

A new steering committee, which includes some of  New Zealand’s  leading virtual world researchers and educators,  has been named to head  the Virtual Life Education New Zealand (VLENZ) group, formed after the finish of SLENZ Project.

The  new leadership group is:  Dr Clare Atkins, of Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions, Dr Scott Diener, of the University of Auckland, Merle Lemon, of Manakau Institute of Technology, and Aaron Griffiths, of Fxual Education Services.

Dr Atkins and Terry Neal (pictured top right and left) were joint leaders of the NZ$500,000 Government-funded SLENZ Project;  Dr Diener(pictured middle right), the Associate Director, IT Services (Academic & Collaborative Technologies) at the University of Auckland, has led the development of the University of Auckland’s  much-lauded medical simulation project in Second Life,  is active in many international groups related to the use of virtual worlds in higher education, and  is a key player in the New Zealand Virtual World Grid (NZVWG);   Lemon (bottom left),  an MIT lecturer, was a Lead Educator (Foundation (Bridging) Learning) for the SLENZ Project; Griffiths (bottom right) ,the founder of Fxual Education Services,  was the Lead developer for the SLENZ Project. Atkins and Griffiths initiated the SLENZ Project two years ago.

The VLENZ meeting early last week, which set up the steering committee, agreed  to the VLENZ name for the group,which will be a consortium of

individuals rather than institutions. It currently has 32 members drawn from education and virtual world research across New Zealand.

It will continue with this blog at slenz.wordpress.com, as well as becoming a sub-domain of the previously registered edumuve.ac.nz domain as vlenz.edumuve.ac.nz. It has a  Second Life Group  called VLENZ as well as a google group under the same name.

It is likely that the formal group will operate as a non-profit trust although this has not yet been finalised.

The group’s purpose and objectives are to be discussed  at meeting on the NMIT Second Life island of Koru at 10 am on Monday, Feb 8 (New Zealand time),  with the objective of finalising the  group’s  mission statement and initial goals.

VLENZ Update, No 160, January 20, 2010

A NEW START FOR 2010

NZ virtual world group off

the ground and running …

At the  NZVWG inaugural meeting: Arwenna Stardust, Rollo Kohimi
and Briarmelle Quintessa.

Fourteen  leaders in virtual world education in New Zealand attended the inaugural meeting earlier this week of  the New Zealand Virtual World Group (working name) on the NMIT island of Koru in Second Life.

The meeting, chaired by Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), one of the joint leaders of the recently-completed SLENZ Project,  was attended by university, polytechnic and others with interested in New Zealand virtual world education.

Professor Noarlunga

Besides SLENZ Project  joint leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel)   the University of Auckland’s Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), and multi-media improv dance exponent, Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) the attendance also included educators from the United Kingdom and Tasmania.

The inaugural meeting, which was mainly an introductory session, set four items for discussion at the first working meeting which will be held at the KiwiEds’ meeting place on Koru at 10am New Zealand time next Monday.

Toddles Lightworker

The agenda items include:

  • Confirmation of the initial agreement that the  group should be  non-institutional  i.e.  a consortium of individuals committed to formal and informal educational initiatives in Virtual Worlds.
  • Group Structure: Determination of how the group should be structured and whether it should be informal or formal,not-for-profit, charitable  or commercial of something else and the roles which individuals could play in the group (positions) as well as tasks.
  • Steering Group:   Discussion of the possibility/necessity of establishing a  “Steering Group” and who should be on it.
  • Group Name:  Discussion and determination of a Group name.

    VonFaraway Meridoc

Besides those already listed among the  SL names   at the first meeting were: Toddles Lightworker (Weltec), CiderJack Applemore, Kattan Hurnung, Petal Stransky (Otago Polytec), Briarmelle Quintessa, (Manukau Institute of Technology) Work Quandry, VonFaraway Meridoc, Rusty Kemble, Anjil Kyoteri and Johnnie Wendt.

At the conclusion of the meeting Atkins confirmed that the formal evaluation of the New Zealand Government-funded SLENZ Project would be made available  shortly.

SLENZ Update, No 159, January 19, 2010

Now the summer holidays are over…

Back  to Broadband and the

virtual worlds …

‘Reality exists in all worlds’

One world: The reality of vacation land…

Sitting on a golden sand beach near Splitapple Rock, in Tasman Bay, New Zealand, being warmed by  the late afternoon summer sun, I wondered about virtual worlds and what they have to offer me  – or anyone else.

Being without Broadband for three weeks – and Second Life  for that period – made me  wonder whether immersion (should I say addiction) is all its cracked up to be.

First off I must say I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms. I did, however, read nine fairly  big books; swam every morning; hiked for  a couple of hours over the hills and through the bush every day; listened to bird song throughout the daylight hours; drove  an open-car (Jensen-Healey) frequently and enjoyably on winding coastal roads;  went to bed at about 10pm and woke between 4 and 5am; and I had a lot  of conversations with fairly ordinary people about fairly innocuous things, most of which – like the books – I forget the detail of now.

It was a holiday in the same beautiful place I’ve been vacationing for 20 or more years. It’s a place I love.

I was totally immersed in  the reality of my environment – I have the brown skin and more tightly cinched belt to prove it – but the memories are little different from those I have got from the virtual world of Second Life. The memories now I am back at my desk  are like my memories of being 30 years continuously on the road as a working  journalist all over the world  – little different from scenes viewed in a television travelogue or out a tourist bus window.

Of course, being there I could feel the sun and wind, the sand under my feet, and smell the sea and the ‘honey’ smell in the native bush. I also could feel the strain in my lungs and my legs climbing a steep hill, or over rocks, and feel the initial coldness of the water on that first early morning swim. But that was the only real difference.

One world: The reality of virtuality

Sitting on that beach though I came to the conclusion that for most purposes virtual worlds provide a similar experience with fewer hassles than those of the real world. I know all – yes all my friends – will disagree with that statement,  or consider me demented, but I think it is true. There is no real  difference in the quality of the experience despite  what the naysayers, who claim virtual worlds are not real life,  might argue.

I wouldn’t change my holiday venue for all the world – and I don’t think I would ever want Broadband there – but  for times when I want to travel without spending five hours in a car, or  a similar number of hours on  an aircraft; at times when I want to talk to people about real things from around the world or even just banter, without the mind-numbing, lubricity of alcohol which many need to free their tongues in a real life environment; at times when long winter evenings, weather or other circumstances keep me indoors;  or at times when I choose to play in another real place I believe  interactive virtuality offers a real alternative to what people call “real life” unlike non-interactive television, or other non-interactive entertainment mediums.

But what  most people in the so-called real world – and especially in education and business – have missed is that  like the “real” world virtual worlds are all about people. They are not about scenery – even though I spend hours exploring the scenery of new and old simulations in virtual worlds -  or scripting, or buildings,  they are about people, real people, who really exist in virtual worlds, just as they really do in the so-called “real” world, despite their appearance as avatars and/or roleplayers.

Strangely that was the only thing  I missed on my real life holiday: being able to talk to the real friends I’ve made in virtual worlds over the last five years. Some I only talk  with infrequently,  others on a daily or weekly basis.  But even though most are from thousands of miles away and I will never feel the touch of their fingers in a handshake they are as real to me as anyone I have met in the real world.

And unlike my local real life tavern – in a small, provincial town in rural  New Zealand, where conversations range from the weather, Rugby, cricket, racing, beer, girls and Rugby and did I say Rugby, but “don’t get to heavy” – my conversations in Second Life with  both men and women  from all ethnic backgrounds cover  a world of ideas and dreams, from art to the universe, from medieval shipping to  teleportation, from history to present day politics, and from lifestyles to  other world cultures.

For me, and millions like me, virtual worlds provide a doorway out of the world we choose to inhabit, perhaps not permanently, but for a certain number of hours each week: I can step through my screen into a place where I can find people – perhaps in a reality  10,000 miles away – who think on the same wave length as me or who I can learn from, or who I can laugh with, and even  those who I can cry with.

For me reality exists in all worlds:  it’s just one world, whether virtual or not.

Perhaps for some reading this, that is sad.

However, for me with virtuality and Broadband I find I can live in one of the best places on earth, a million miles from anywhere, and still be anywhere in the world  when I want to be with the people I choose to mix with. That’s what Second Life has given me. The world.

It has opened another door for me.

Both worlds: it’s all about people.

SLENZ Update, No 158, December 23, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

Yay! It’s a 2nd runner-up EDUBLOG

‘Oscar’ to  SLENZ  Project Team

‘Phenomenal’ result for team from Aotearoa/New Zealand

The SLENZ Project Team at work … the final 2009 meeting.  Key players, Terry Neal and
Aaron Griffiths at the head of the table, and Dr Clare Atkins, in black, left.

A chance meeting in Second Life three years ago between  Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), of the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology,  and  education-online tools developer and Second Life builder Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) came to a climax this week with  a second runner-up place for the SLENZ Project in  the prestigious, international EDUBLOG 2009 awards  in the “best educational use of a virtual world” category.

The placing  for the  the team from New Zealand was greeted with elation by SLENZ Project team members -  “the best Christmas present ever “- and seen by  independent educators, academics and  education institution administrators as “fantastic”, “phenomenal” and “unprecedented.”

The New Zealand team  won its second runner-up place in a competition which pitted it against 14 of the world’s best  “virtual world” education organisations. The winner of the title was  Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; the first runner-up, Virtual Round Table Conference; with the SLENZ Project sharing second runner-up status with  ISTE’s Second Life island.

‘Set a benchmark’

“I  think this is just phenomenal,” said Scott Diener, one of the world leaders in Second Life education and associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, in a message to the team. “The SLENZ team has truly set a benchmark against which other developments should measure.  I hope I can say ‘I am so proud of you’ without it sounding pretentious…because I am so proud of you.”

Tony Gray, the chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology which hosted the SLENZ Project  initially  on its island of Koru in Second Life,  said in a message to Atkins on hearing  the news:  “This is a fantastic outcome and significantly achieved through your passion and commitment to the project. I am  very proud that NMIT should have first of all taken a lead and secondly that we can show a peer-reviewed achievement as a result.”

The SLENZ Project  grew out of that first meeting between Atkins and Griffths who both dreamed of seeing “students interacting with each other and their international peers, with the Second Life environment, with teachers, domain experts, inspirational speakers from all over the  “real” world”.  The project was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission. It  has been completely developed under Creative Commons license with all builds freely available for use or acquisition by anyone with “full permissions.”

The EDUBLOG placings were chosen by public vote.

The SLENZ Project creations – 1. The Otago Polytechnic’s Birthing Unit during
a Jokaydia un-conference presentation

The SLENZ Project creations – 2. The Kowhai Island arrival pad.

The SLENZ Project creations – 3. Manukau Institute of Technology’s
Foundation (Bridging) Learning Pilot Programme

“I don’t think either of us ever really imagined that only three years later we would have been part of a team that had not only helped to realise that dream but had succeeded beyond our wildest hopes,” Atkins said today commenting  on the award to the NZ$500,00 project . It was designed to determine whether there were benefits from providing education in a virtual world and, if so, how those benefits could best be harnessed.

“The SLENZ project has been a very large part of my ‘real’ and ‘second’ life for the last two years and I sincerely hope that its successes will enable us to continue the work that it has begun,” Atkins, who is joint co-leader of the project, said. ” I think we have demonstrated, not only that the immersive and engaging experiences of multi-user virtual worlds have an enormous potential to enhance learning for all kinds and levels of tertiary students, but also that a small virtual team from New Zealand can create global-award winning experiences.
“Gaining this award is a recognition of the world-class work being done in Second Life by our educators, our designers and our developers and this is just the beginning,” she said. “I would like to thank those at the TEC who decided to take a bit of a gamble and fund the SLENZ project.

‘Brave decision’

“It was a brave decision to take in 2007 when education in this kind of environment was truly in its infancy but I believe that we have proved worthy of the trust that they displayed in us and that we have set the stage for some really exciting developments in the next few years.  The use of environments such as Second Life will change the way we teach and learn in the 21st century and I hope we have helped to sketch out the early plans of how this might be achieved.
Acknowledging the work of the development team, the Steering Group members,   SLENZ friends and support staff who enabled the project to run so smoothly,Terry Neal (co-Project Leader) “for keeping us all on track with such good humour” and  Tony Gray (CE, NMIT) for not only supporting the project but believing in it, she singled out Griffiths for “both  sharing the dream and for using his incredible 3D building and scripting talent to actualise it.”
Describing the award as “thrilling,” Project co-leader Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions Ltd,  said, “From the very beginning  we wanted to share our journey so others could learn from what we  could do well and what we could do better. I’m proud of what we have achieved, but its nice to know others value it too.
“It has been a wonderful team effort. Each of us has contributed in a different way but no subset of the team could have achieved what the team has. I’m  also proud that even though we are in such a small country we can still foot it with the rest of the globe when it comes to what is happening in virtual worlds.
“But we really need to build on what we have achieved over the last 18 months and maintain the  momentum through the recently formed New Zealand Virtual World Group (NZVWG).”

‘Lil, happy dance’

Aaron Griffths Second Life alter ego, Isa Goodman, “smiled and did a lil, happy dance” inside Second Life, on hearing the news, according to Griffiths, the SLENZ Project’s lead developer.

Griffiths added, “This is a great achievement and I think all the team should be proud of what we have accomplished. It is wonderful to have peer recognition that we have done something right in our attempt to explore the educational possibilities of virtual worlds and I hope that New Zealand will not now drop the ball  as this award, I believe.  recognises, we are up there with the best.
“On a personal level I am very proud to have produced builds that have been received so well,” he said. “I believe it gives some credence to the methodologies used in them and in particular to the Foundation Studies build, which was deliberately designed to capture some of the elements of play that an environment like Second Life allows.

“It showed I think a possible pathway for developing learning that can engage and be fun and still have a positive outcome in terms of student achievement.”

The core SLENZ team members who worked on the project, besides Neal, Atkins and Griffiths, included from time to time, Merle Lemon, Sarah Stewart, Todd Cochrane, Leigh Blackall, Ben Salt, Henry Work and John Waugh.

The SLENZ Project’s final fling – the Koru Xmas Party 2009

SLENZ Update, No 157, December 22, 2009

ascilite 2009 – AUCKLAND, NZ

Virtual worlds might not be quite  there

but ASCILITE shows  the way forward

Second Life – ‘This will change everything…’ Scott Diener

The Auckland University-Boise State collaborative post-partum haemorrhage
nurse training scenario, presented by Scott Diener (Pix: Merle Lemon)


When Scott Diener (pictured right),  associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, first saw  the NTSC  internet browser Mosaic, he had an ephiphany. “This will change everything,” he thought. And it did. Without it there probably would be no WorldWideWeb as we know it today.

He had the same epiphany when he  first saw  and used  the virtual world of Second Life, he told educators and researchers from around the world who attended the  ascilite 2009 conference held in Auckland early in December: “This will change everything,” he thought, especially in higher education.

Arguing that  higher education had not changed since the 14th century and before – it still takes place in a protected environment with protected knowledge based on  the notion of scarcity with students, although the chosen few, often not engaged – he asked, rhetorically, “What if we had Global access to all knowledge?” And then after praising the Google goal of releasing  all books in all languages on the net but noting the futility of tertiary institutions repeating  the same basic courses with the same knowledge ad infinitum in the age of the Internet, he said,   “… we don’t need to redevelop education. We need to share.”

Sharing, he said was the only way  to solve the tertiary education needs of the world’s burgeoning population. The  provision of tertiary education even now  could not keep pace with the population trends. Today the world with 7 billion people needed to create 2500 universities the size of Auckland University (40,000 students)  every year, year on year to keep up with demand. Within 20 years, he said,  it would need another 200,000 universities, another 400 million university teachers and 40 million lecture theaters of the same size as the giant Owen G. Glenn Building auditorium at The University of Auckland, would be needed.

“It’s impossible,” he said, adding that the challenge was how  to provide education to the world differently.

The only practical solution, he suggested, was virtual education in virtual worlds such as Second Life and the 200 plus other virtual worlds or some derivative of them.

Describing the benefits of virtual worlds such as Second Life for tertiary education, Diener said,  their major difference  to other on-line learning methods, was that they provided a real sense of self and the suspension of disbelief, a sense of place and sense of emotion.

Virtual worlds which immersed students enabled educators to adopt problem-based learning approaches which worked, he said, adding the challenge was realise the benefits through the emergence of these constructivist pedagogies into main stream teaching.

He urged the  conference participants to focus on the emerging new spaces in virtual worlds, but not  to replicate  the architectural spaces they had in the real world into new virtual spaces.

“Don’t fall into the trap of shoveling the same old stuff into the new spaces,” he said.

Urging innovation in virtual worlds, he said, their uptake by mainstream tertiary institutions  could change everything in education as it was known today and provide  possibly the only answer to the world’s future tertiary education needs for all.

But, Diener warned, the educational benefits of virtual worlds could be  locked away from the rest of the world and in fact were being closed-up by some  large tertiary institutions which had already  “locked their builds down”  returning virtual worlds to the world of 14th Century education, when learning was only for the  privileged.

“Please don’t lock the systems down,” he said, noting  his UofA project and the New Zealand SLENZ Project builds were released under Creative Commons license.” Share them with others,” he said. ” Open them up to collaboration with others.”

Later in another presentation  Diener, along with in-world and real world collaborators from Boise State University, Idaho, and Wyoming, demonstrated the  University of Auckland’s  innovative Second Life presence and medical centre teaching system on the Second Life island of  Long White Cloud.

The post partum haemorrhage  simulation real-world presentation team.

SLENZ Update, No 156, December 13, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT

SLENZ in 14  international finalists

for top Edublog 2009 award

Your vote will count! Click Button TOP RIGHT and vote.

The SLENZ (Seoncd Life Education New Zealand) Project team has been  honoured by being named among the 14 finalists  for an EduBlog 2009 Award  in the category, “Best Educational Use of a Virtual World 2009.”

The award is among those which  “celebrate the best educational blogs on the web”.

Although the SLENZ Project originated from an isolated  small country – one might say at the end of the earth – the nomination shows  again that Kiwis can compete on  an even footing with the rest of the world when it comes to internet applications, such as virtual worlds, despite in-country broadband limitations and the “tyranny of distance.”

It demonstrates that virtual worlds can create a world  without borders:  that ordinary New Zealanders – anyone – can collaborate across time zones,  national borders, cultures, ethnicities and languages to provide benefits throughout the world.

Dr Clare Atkins (SL; Arwenna Stardust) (pictured right), the SLENZ Project co-leader said that she was  delighted, when told  of the SLENZ nomination in the final list.

She appealed to readers of  the SLENZ Update: “If you have enjoyed reading the SLENZ blog we are really pleased. We would love it if you felt a strong need to show your appreciation by voting for us.”

The other finalists include prestigious virtual world groups such as:  CANVAS (Children’s Art in the Virtual Arena of Scotland); DEN SL Blog; Edunation; ISTE’s Second Life island; Reaction Grid; School of Nursing, University of Kansas; SIGMS in Second Life;  Sloodle;  The International Schools Island (isi); The UC Davis Virtual Hallucination simulation; Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; Virtual Macbeth – Angela Thomas; Virtual Round Table Conference.

“For SLENZ to even be listed amongst these groups is absolutely wonderful, ”  SLENZ Update editor/writer, John Waugh (SL: Johnnie Wendt) said. “While I would love for the SLENZ Group to win the award  I am very conscious of the calibre of the other finalists – they are the best in the world from a myriad of educational uses and I have accessed them all.”

He  wished the other finalists luck  and concluded with a call for SLENZ Update readers and their friends to vote for  Second Life Education New Zealand at  Edublog.

The Second Life Education New Zealand Project was funded by the New Government’s Tertiary Education  Commission. It has been designed to determine the benefits of using virtual worlds for education and  how best these benefits can be captured.

The work of the team has been completely “transparent” with all documentation/discussions etc included on this site. The team’s builds and findings  have all be done under Creative Commons attribution, are all OpenSource, and freely available to all educators as “full perms” packages.

SLENZ Update, No 155, December 11, 2009

ascilite 2009

VW leaders establish  New Zealand

virtual worlds’ education group

The University of Auckland’s Dr Scott Diener presents at
ascilite 2009 ….  he is one of Australasia’s leaders in
virtual world tertiary education.

The New Zealand Virtual Worlds Group (NZVWG), an independent, not-for profit association for people interested in virtual worlds and their use for education in New Zealand  has grown out of the recent ascilite (Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education) 2009 conference held in Auckland, New Zealand.

The four-day conference, the leading Australasian forum on computers in education,  saw a number of presentations on the successful use of virtual worlds – particularly in Second Life – for learning,   including an impressive  keynote address by one of the Australasian leaders in virtual education, Dr Scott Diener (pictured above), of  The University of Auckland.

The conference in the Owen Glass Building at  The University of Auckland was attended by delegates from across the world and the leaders of virtual world education in New Zealand, Diener, Dr Clare Atkins, of NMIT (Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology) and Terry Neal, of Blended Solutions.

The formation of the group followed a  symposium initiated by  the SLENZ Project team  about the future of Virtual World  education in New Zealand and what  could be done to promote and encourage it, which was  led SLENZ Project co- leader, Dr Clare Atkins (pictured right), and grew out of subsequent conversations between Atkins, Diener and and SLENZ Project co-leader Terry Neal (pictured left).

“The group has been set up  to further education in multi user virtual environments and virtual worlds in New Zealand,” Dr Atkins said. “We will be looking not only at teaching in MUVEs but also how other aspects of education including administration, libraries, marketing etc., can  benefit from virtual worlds.”

Initially  the group will operate from a Google Group which has been set up “to get the initial ideas flowing,”Atkins said, noting that,  as yet few, if any concrete decisions have been taken on anything except the pressing need for such an association.

Although the group has been formed by members of the SLENZ Project, which was funded by Tertiary Education New Zealand, it is independent from that project and also virtual world platform independent.

Issuing an invitation to New Zealand educators and others interested in virtual world technology and education, Atkins said, “”We would like to encourage  you to be part of these early discussions! We need everyone’s ideas, thoughts, comments etc.  We hope you feel like joining us.”

The two aspects of the creation of the group that the founding team was most set on, she said, were:

  • It should be independent and not for profit. Although institutions/organisations may choose to support the association in some way it would not be affiliated with any particular one.
  • It should encompass the broad spectrum of virtual worlds or MUVEs and interpret education in the broadest of terms – all sectors, all aspects.

To join one should go  here.

SLENZ Update, No 154, December 06, 2009

Where is education going in Virtual Worlds?

An earlier (2008) view of a Duke University  foray into virtual worlds
- just one of  the university’s many virtual projects

With the  Obama Administration  turning to the virtual world to extoll the virtues of a science education through expansion of the STEM Education Initiative and NASA also using virtual worlds to promote engineering education to the next generation of potential NASA employees it seems certain  that educators around the world will not be able to avoid the  MUVE issue although it is  apparent many would wish to.

It  also appears certain that Governments, if they wish to keep abreast of world education trends, can no longer allow their telcos to limit bandwidth or  to  obfuscate the issue of the need for consistent, high speed Broadband  – which New Zealand telcos dont deliver outside  the major centres -  if  all are to benefit from the growing acceptance of virtuality, in all its guises. In future education poverty might be determined by one’s access to Broadband, particularly in the sense of distance education,  as we move away from on-campus learning to virtual campus learning which is available to everyone.

Following President Obama’s announcement early in his term of  initiatives to encourage American students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the White House now  appears to be moving into the Metaverse in an attempt to expand its  flagging science education initiative, according to  Max Burns (pictured left) of the Washington-based Pixels and Policy  blogs .

Quoting a  press release issued by Duke University, Durham, North Carolina,  in which  the Duke Center announced a partnership with the White House to promote the development of virtual learning worlds related to science and engineering  especially in middle and high school by linking into virtual worlds and the digital generation’s undoubted video-gaming experience, Burns said:

  • The third-annual Digital Media and Learning Competition will award $2 million in support to 21st Century learning lab designers  for learning environments and digital media-based experiences that allow young people to grapple with social challenges through STEM-based activities.
  • Digital media of any type (social networks, games, virtual worlds, mobile devices or others) may be used. Proposals are also encouraged for curricula or other experiences that link or connect to any game, especially but not limited to Sony’s LittleBigPlanet™ on PlayStation®3.

“Lifting American students from the middle to the top of the pack in STEM achievement over the next decade will not be attained by government alone,” said President Obama at the event in late November at which he announced the “Educate to Innovate” campaign. “I applaud the substantial commitments made today by the leaders of companies, universities, foundations, nonprofits and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers from across the country.”

KZERO’s current virtual world universe – an ever-increasing population.

Moves cannot be seen in isolation

But the  White House moves cannot be seen in isolation.  The University of Texas has already  announced plans to put all its 16 campuses across the State online in the virtual world of Second Life; The prestigious Australian Film Radio and Television School, based in Sydney, has announced  a Graduate Certificate in Video Games and Virtual Worlds starting next year;  the University of California at Irvine has received a US$100,000 National Science Foundation grant to study World of Warcraft;  the creation of  an US Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds by the Information Resource Management (IRM) College of the National Defense University, to ‘ prepare leaders to direct the information component of national power by leveraging information and information technology for strategic advantage’; Glasgow’s Caledonian University has become  the first university  in the UK to offer a complete, integrated module on 3D Internet Virtual Worlds, teaching students all components involved in this relatively new branch of internet design and multi media; the Immersive Education Initiative, a 1000-plus  member, non-profit international collaboration of universities, colleges, research institutes, consortia and companies that are working together to define and develop open standards, best practices,platforms, and communities of support for virtual reality and game-based learning and training systems, is growing apace; and closer to home  the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission’s  NZ$500 000 SLENZ Project to determine the benefits of virtual education  is nearing completion with the formal evaluation process currently taking place;  The University of  Auckland, under the aegis of lecturer Scott Diener has set up a medical centre for training purposes in Second Life; and that university has also seen lecturer Judy Cockeram, gain international recognition for  her virtual architecture study programme which is schedule to accept more than 100 students in the New Year.

But these are not alone.  They  are among  the more than 500  universities and tertiary institutions now in Second Life and other virtual worlds. The launching of both learning and research programmes into  virtual worlds is continuing apace throughout the world, despite  some skepticism  from those who have never been immersed,  who are not  members of the digital generation or not digital migrants. Unfortunately for them virtual worlds, with 690 million participants worldwide, according to the UK-based research organisation KZero, will probably leave them behind as the flotsam and jetsam of  the virtual age.

Probably one of the best recent summations of just where  virtual education in the world is and where it is going   has been given  by Robin Teigland (pictured right), Work Associate Professor in the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness, at  the Stockholm School of Economics,  Stockholm, Sweden.

Her Powerpoint presentation to the Online Education Conference in Berlin on December 2 is well worth taking the time to look at.

And the US National Defense University initiative.
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