SLENZ Update, No 143, October 8, 2009

THE SLENZ WORKSHOPS AT

Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009 -2

MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching in a Multi-user Virtual Environment,” and “In-world, meets the real world – the trials and tribulations of bringing Second Life to an ITP,” presented by Merle Lemon, lead educator in foundation learning, and lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology and Oriel Kelly, manager of MIT’s Learning Environment Support Technology Centre.

SL foundation learning students

“do better” than f2f learners

Real Life assessment finding
IMG_0836Merle Lemon is her SL alter ego on screen at Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009

Foundation Learning students who used the SLENZ pilot foundation learning programme in Second Life to hone their interview skills  did  better in real life assessment interviews than  those students  who had not been through Second Life, according to SLENZ lead educator and senior Manukau Institute of Technology lecturer Merle Lemon (SL: Briamelle Quintessa).

The  result came from  all foundation learning classes in interview techniques – both from those students who  used Second Life and those in face-to-face classes – being assessed in real life interviews by an assessor who did not know who had attended which classes.

Although Lemon is the first to admit the test was “not scientific” and that the results “might have  been confounded by individual class teacher ability” the results point to the benefits of  a properly- designed  virtual world  learning programme used by itself or as a valuable  adjunct to face-to-face learning.

The result, even if anecdotal in nature, was across the board with students four  the  four SL classes  doing better in the real life interview assessment  than those from six face-to-face-only classes.

Lemon reported the result as an aside to virtual world teaching workshops she conducted  at last week’s annual, national Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009  tertiary education conference  at UCOL in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

IMG_0838Introducing “MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching team in a Multiuser Virtual Environment”,  Lemon  paid tribute to the SLENZ team and  to the support she received from her foundation learning pilot members and fellow educators –  MIT’s Tania Hogan (SL: Tania Hogan) and  Maryanne Wright (SL:Nugget Mixemup); NorthTec’s  Martin Bryers (SL: Motini Manimbo), Vicki Pemberton (SL: Sky Zeitman) and  Clinton Ashill (SL: Clat Adder), as well as Oriel Kelly (pictured right),  manager of MIT’s Learning Environment Support Technology Centre and MIT’s IT support staff  “although they were somewhat reluctant at first.”
“We tried  to get the  educators into Second Life as quickly as possible after the project started,” Lemon said. ” We tried to keep everyone on the same page all the time and largely succeeded.

“But  we had to keep the lecturers motivated. They had to realise they were not going to be alone when they were going into SL.  For this we used mentors and we linked up for meetings together in SL and with other educators in SL. Volunteers from ISTE ( International Society for Technology in Education) and the University of Arizona helped out a lot in SL.”

Highest praise for ISTE, Jo Kay

On an international collaborative basis she paid tribute for outstanding help – I publish her list in the belief it may be a help to other educators –  to  Second Life’s MNC  (New Media Consortium), CCSL (Community Colleges of Second Life), Google Teacher Academy,Second Life Mentors, Second Life Education, and Second Ability Mentors (for the disabled).

She also found the  VWBPE (Virtual World Best Practices in Education  conference) run virtually in  February  this year as being invaluable both from a  learning and networking point of view and received help from  the Education Coffee House, Virtual Pioneers and Media Learning – Danish Visions, the Kiwi Educators group, and COM Educators in Second Life.

She reserved some of her highest praise for   The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) which she described as “the trusted source for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation” in in-world education and Australian Second Life educator and researcher Jo Kay, of Jokaydia, the Jokaydia annual Unconference , Jokaydia News and Info and   Jokaydia Educators-in Rez.

“Inadequacy,” “panic”

Lemon said among the difficulties experienced by her  team  were: wavering support and/or a lack of commitment;  exacerbated by feelings of  “inadequacy” and sometimes “panic”;  communication problems and the loss of some team members as the pilot progressed. There  also was a problem initially with student non-attendance and  a lack of computer literacy but this had been overcome with the establishment of a “buddy” system. This had sometimes turned into a problem of keeping track of students: “Make sure they are in your group and are on your friends list,” she said.

However, in the five classes taken into SL, there had only been one student who had “resisted” the idea, not for computer or virtual world issues, but because of “privacy” in connection with the other students.

In deciding to move learning into Second Life, Lemon said, educators, rather than  initially spending lots on their developments etc, without proper research,  should consider the existing resources within Second Life and  whether they could use these  resources, and what needed to be added to them to make them useful for a particular purpose.

She recommended, based on her experience, that the lead educator or “champion” of any on-going  education project in Second Life should  Motivate, Motivate, Motivate team members.  She noted that in the Second Life context “knowledge is power”.

She added that any  education team should  hold regular meetings in world and members should lock  themselves into the relevant Second Life groups. But, she added, team members must take time to have fun in SecondLife.

Technology issues

On Technical and Learning Technology Support Issues, Oriel Kelly, who presented  this paper with Lemon, said at MIT, they had  found,  that Second Life barely ran on a computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo; Motherboard: Intel DG35EC (G35 Express); CPU: Intel E8400 (2Ghz); Memory: 2GB (800mhz) RAM; GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT. On the question of network and bandwidth,  latency was an issue  with computer lab  sessions needing 416kb/machine. Firewalls had also been problematic because Second Life’s  SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is non-standard  and needed to be passed without being shredded by SIP aware firewalls or declared an  “illegal operation”.
On the question of access MIT  had had problems with  single IP NATs (network address translation) registering more than two avatars.
“We had a lot of technical problems, ” Lemon said,  adding that the major complaints from students had involved  technical issues.

Many of the problems, Lemon said, could be overcome by involving the technical staff in-world in the Second Life experience.

“Once in there and involved in the experiences they are sucked in,” she  half joked,  adding that previously the technical staff hadn’t been able to see why anyone would want to teach in-world.

The SLENZ Update – No 79, May 10, 2009

BEHIND THE FIREWALL

Is this the  the  route

education will take?

CWRU

The CWRU virtual campus. Picture: Courtesy  Eduscape – Education in Second Life

University and tertiary institution administrations like to play God – or so I have been led to believe – so the experience of Case Western Reserve University, established 1826 in Cleveland, Ohio, in taking some of its Virtual World activities behind  a firewall could prove illuminating  for us all.

It also will provide  an opportunity for control – none of that sex, drugs and rock ‘n’roll, scantily-clad or naked avatars, and griefing,  that some conservatives see as the whole of Second Life – data privacy, confidentiality,  IT security, and, according to Wendy Shapiro (pictured right), the university’s senior academic-technology officer, in an Amanda Linden article in “EDUSCAPE – Education In Second Life”,  fulfills   two of the most important elements of a private educational Second Life “1) a multi-age platform and 2) privacy”.shapiro, Wendy

And when you host your own universe, as Shapiro noted, according to Marc Perry, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, “you get God privileges -You can control everything. You can control who comes in, who gets kicked off. You can control whether people walk or fly.”

CWRU,  the first educational institution to deploy the behind-the-firewall version of Second Life, codenamed ‘Nebraska’, in partnership with The New Media Consortium (NMC),  announced the move at the annual summit on technology and collaboration, CollabTech, held both on Case Western Reserve’s physical campus in Cleveland and their eight-island virtual campus in Second Life.

The reason for the partial move behind the firewall,  according to Perry quoting Larry Johnson, chief executive of the New Media Consortium, a Texas-based higher-education-technology group, is because CWRU’s medical school is interested in performing research involving personal medical histories (and) could use a private environment.

“I think that it’s going to solve a lot of issues that many institutions have with using virtual worlds in general.,” Johnson said. It’s the first step in allowing universities to begin to build their own grids.

“Another function would be programs that focus on both adults and kids,” he said. “Right now, adults need to undergo background checks to access the Second Life teen grid.

This would aid another use Case envisions for the ‘Nebraska’ environment which would involve the campus Hispanic club providing mentors to Cleveland public-school students in the online virtual world.

By the way Second Life is still  interested in getting participants in its beta program for the standalone version of Second Life (Contact: business at secondlife.com).

Military training

US Air Force_002

The US Air Force’s MyBase in Second Life

Meanwhile Federal Computer Week recently published an interesting article the handful of  US Government agencies who have turned to virtual worlds to create programs that bring together the best aspects of Internet-based training and the traditional classroom.

It gives an overview of three, two of which will obviously become mainly behind firewall applications:

US Air Force: The Air Force’s training command entered the world of virtual learning in December, 2008, with the launch of MyBase,  in Second Life, with an aim to enhancing Air Force recruiting, training, education and operations and meet the education and training needs of future members of the Air Force. MyBase is currently open to the public but the Air Force plans to establish a secure site to provide virtual education and training, such as certification and degree programs, and later a second secure site to re-create operational environments. For example, it could re-create an air base in Iraq where service members could go to train and also meet others with whom they would deploy.

US National Guard: The Guard started the programme –  a virtual world designed to support training, education and collaboration across government – from scratch two-and-a-half years ago as a training and preparedness program for service members and civilian emergency managers. Lt. Col. Gregory Pickell, chief of the Joint Advanced Concepts Division’s Training Technology Branch at the National Guard Bureau, and in charge of the U.S. Nexus programme, believes it has a broader government application. “We found that the virtual word has the ability to bring people together in ways that are not possible in the real world,” he said. “If you have distance-based education, training or collaboration requirements, Nexus gives you more value for every mile between you and your audience.”  U.S. Nexus was developed for the Guard by Engineering and Computer Simulations. It will enter its beta test phase in June, with an initial operational capability slated for November. One of the objectives of U.S. Nexus is to redefine access to traditional distance-earning applications, making it easier to locate the appropriate course without Google searches or text links. Pickell said, aabout 80 percent of online courses are unknown to the user community because they are located at a university or behind a military firewall. “Our job is to find those applications and bring them into the [U.S. Nexus] parallel world architecture.” Users would access applications in ways that make sense to them, such as a firefighter taking a recertification course at a virtual firehouse. U.S. Nexus supports simultaneous training of geographically dispersed people at a lower cost than bringing them all together in a single place, Pickell said. DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department have discussed using U.S. Nexus to coordinate care for injured Iraq war veterans. The Defense Acquisition University, with more than 320,000 students worldwide, plans to use Nexus for a variety of requirements, including avatar-to-avatar synchronous classroom delivery.

Testing other VWs

US Navy: The Naval Undersea Warfare Center set up shop in Second Life about a year ago. “We have a responsibility… that we look globally for new technology,” Paul Lefebvre, technical director and senior civilian at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, said. “This is technology that has potential for a lot of applications.” As the Navy’s undersea research and development lab, NUWC Division Newport was tasked with delivering better products to the fleet, Lefebvre said. “So we’re looking how to apply things like Second Life to the fleet,” he said. This includes how to use virtual worlds for operational testing, training, collaboration, product development and design work. This summer, NUWC Newport is planning an experiment that will create a virtual submarine attack center. Some fleet participants will take part in the exercise virtually, where they will access simulated scenarios and perform their mission in a virtual world. Others will take part traditionally, without the immersive experience. They will compare the results of the test to see how participants fare in each. In addition to Second Life NUWC  has tested OpenSimulator, Sun Wonderland, Forterra’s Olive and Qwaq Forums.

The SLENZ Update – No 65, April 8, 2009

Coming to a screen near you

Another Second Life may live behind firewall at your work

ibm_002

IBM in Second Life … now trialling stand-alone Second Life

Business and sometimes academic administrators’ worries about the lack of security of intellectual property within Second Life  appear to be about to be put to rest by Linden Labs with the announcement that  the stand-alone version of Second Life solution is currently in the alpha phase.

The Lindens have announced that they already have nine alpha installations in the field in organisations such as IBM, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), New Media Consortium (NMC), Intel, and Northrop Grumman and are planning to go into a limited closed beta phase this summer with general availability later this year.

The server solution is completely disconnected from the main Second Life environment but includes all Second Life’s rich functionality in the box.

There is no word yet about interoperability, but if it is possible to securely TP from Second Life main grid, behind the firewall for a specific task or work, such as prototyping, internal confidential conferences, seminars and work meetings, as well as private training, the new set up, depending on  that magic  word “cost” could prove a boon for Virtual World adoption, giving  enterprises the best of all worlds.

The Linden decision was based on the fact that enterprises, governments, and educational institutions  have consistentlycommented over the years that although they see tremendous promise in virtual worlds and the Second Life environment they could not incorporate  the core of their business into a virtual world unless they could do it behind a firewall.

Some of the most interesting comments/questions on the move have come from Lowell Cremorne in the Australian-based  Metaverse Journal.

He sees the key implications as being the minimisation of  key security and intellectual property issues,  and as being another nail in the mirror world – eg Twinity et al – coffin.

The SLENZ Update – No 24, November 12, 2008

SL learning “fun”

lecture_in_sl

Second Life provides options for multi-modality in communication that “make learning fun – always a desired outcome,” according to two Finish researchers.
This was only one of the findings from their recently completed in-depth study of distance learning in Second Life, published recently in First Monday, the peer-reviewed journal of the University of Illinois (Chicago). http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2178/2033
Reflecting other research Kim Holmberg and Isto Huvila (both have researcher/lecturer roles in Finland’s Department of Information Studies, Åbo Akademi) found that, although virtual learning is reshaping what happens in the classroom and will be a valuable add-on learning tool in the future,  Second Life and other virtual worlds can never fully replace in-class learning.
But they said, “To place Second Life, Web-based learning environments and face-to-face education in order according to which one is the best is hardly useful.

“According to the results of this study, the three learning environments compete very well with each other,” they said. “There are benefits in face-to-face education and in real physical presence that are difficult to achieve in other learning environments.
“Education in Second Life is closer to face-to-face education than traditional methods in distance education that are based on asynchronous communication and two-dimensional media. Second Life provides options for multimodality in communication (voice, chat, gestures, space) that make learning fun – always a desired outcome.”
The researchers said they were convinced that the concept of interreality – the integration of physical and virtual worlds – is “an advantage in distance education, if it can bring distance education closer to face-to-face education.”
Interestingly of the 30 students that participated in the study of a course in information studies – 28 female, two male – few had difficulty navigating through SL and most felt that it was superior to other Web-based learning environments.
Second Life was used as a platform to deliver lectures and as a place for organising group assignments and having discussions.
“One reason why the barrier to participation in Second Life was lower may be the fact that SL provides means for multimodal communication, even in-world,” the two researchers said.
“Students could use text-based chat inside SL to ask questions and participate and the teacher could answer and respond at a suitable time without interruption. It is possible to communicate through different channels at the same time, and students can use a channel that best suits them. Another possible explanation might be that the use of avatars gives students some level of anonymity with students ‘hiding’ behind their avatars.
But they added, provided that participating face-to-face education does not require too much travelling and learning outcomes are satisfactory, “Second Life does not necessarily provide any significant benefits, at least not when using it only as a platform for lectures and teamwork.
“When considering distance only as a physical measure of separation, Second Life provides a means to overcome it. The existence of multimodal and non-interfering means of communication and socialisation by using chat, instant messages and voice calls in personal and group interaction provides users a wider range of possibilities to communicate than in face-to-face sessions.”

Browser wars?

My belief that the creation of a universal generic browser (carrying assets) will be the key to the widespread adoption of virtual worlds received somewhat of a setback this week with Wagner James Au reporting in Newworldnotes, about a leading open source developer creating a non-SL compatible viewer.
Asking whether there was a fork ahead in the road to the Metaverse (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2008/11/a-fork-in-the-m.html#more) he wrote about KirstenLee Cinquetti’s, development of the Openlife R16 viewer, (pictured, courtesy nwn) cinquettikirstenleewhich, although based on the original open source code of the SL viewer, only works with Openlife.
Au said the move was significant because the work by Cinquetti, previously renowned for her SL-compatible viewers, especially her dynamic lighting-enabled Shadowdraft viewer, could complicate attempts by Linden Lab, IBM, and other organisations to create full interoperability between Second Life and OpenSim servers as well as possibly lead to browser wars a la the early days of the net.

SL prize details

Every educator believes they are working not only for the good of their students but also for the good of the world and even the universe.
Well, Linden Labs has now allowed them – as well as every other Second Life resident – to compete in a “superlative achievement” award in what would appear to be a made for education prize opportunity (http://lindenlab.com/lindenprize)
Robin Linden and Everett Linden gave further details of the Linden Prize in SL this week. The prize will see one Second Life resident or team receive US$10,000 (paid in $L) for an innovative inworld project “that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world.”
When originally announced four months ago by Mitch Kapor the prize was described as rewarding “superlative achievement” exemplifying the mission of “elevating the human condition” through using SL.
“We expect and want to create a wide funnel of people thinking, ‘Hey that might be me,'” said Everett Linden (Everett Harper in RL and Linden’s Director of Community Initiatives).
He said entries were expected from people in healthcare, people-creating communities with real impact, scientists with psychological studies, people with diplomacy projects, and architecture among other things.
“The key thing is that can you document tangible evidence of improving and having a good impact on people’s lives, and I say that broadly,” he said. “And it’s got to be compelling and high-quality, from compelling to aesthetics to technical to pure execution. It should really have a sense of being influential to creating future development across virtual worlds into the real world. ” Applications close January 15, 2009, with the winner and finalists announced no later than April 30, 2009.

campuspeople1

SL Community

For those of you who missed it previously Jennifer Ragan-Fore (SL:Kittygloom Cassady), SLEDcc Co-Chair, has again provided the slurl of the streaming pages and blogs of the successful “edu track” of the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa. http://sledcc.wikispaces.com/Audio+Visual+Archives; http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=blog+sledcc08&btnG=Search; Flickr uploads http://www.flickr.com/groups/sledcc08; RezEd discussions http://www.rezed.org/ ; and tweets http://twitter.com/sledcc .

Kemp on SL strength

Building community in Second Life is “really a matter of fostering user ownership and getting users involved,” says Jeremy Kemp, assistant director of San Jose State University’s SL Campus and wellknown virtual world guru. “That’s the strength of Second Life,” he said, “it’s a world created by users.”
And, in Second Life, according to Kemp, where a group of students meets at the same time online, there’s a sense of embodiment, a feeling of being in the classroom and a sense of presence.
“They get the feeling of being there,” says Kemp, and “they can see me in the classroom.”
Kemp expressed this view to Samantha Cleaver in an article in the ecommercetimes on Virtual Learning and the Avatar Generation – diverse issues in higher education, which looks at distance learning up close. http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/web20/65082.html?wlc=1226309206&wlc=1226353422

Events

November 17, 1-5pm (SL time) “Real World Impacts from the Virtual World” including a “sneak preview” of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s new sim “Foundations” should be of interest to educators and researchers. Interactive events covering how groups use virtual spaces like Second Life to build opportunities in preserving native peoples’ cultures, creating accessible spaces for people with disabilities, helping obese people make healthy life choices and teaching underprivileged youth about paleontology and science. Venues: (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Foundations/119/233/36) and the neighboring archipelago that includes the Network Culture Project, Justice Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/The%20Justice%20Commons/134/130/29) and Aloft Nonprofit Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Aloft%20Nonprofit%20Commons/88/52/23/).

November 18, 2008, 7-8am (SL time) – Edward Lee Lamoureux (pictured at right), associate professor, Multimedia Program and Department of Communication, Bradley University) (SL:Professor Beliveau) participant in the recent lamoureuxInternational Distance Learning Day event. will share a portion of his IDLD talk with the Healthcare Education group (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Health%20Eduisland/174/144/25) Info on Lamoureux http://slane.bradley.edu/com/faculty/lamoureux/website2/

November 28-29, 2008 – Australasian Virtual Worlds Workshop 2008, EN 101, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia, and selected locations in SL. Keynote speakers include: Larry Johnson (CEO, NMC), Chris Collins (Director of Enterprise Business Systems, Linden Lab) and Bruce Joy (CEO, Vast Park) This workshop builds upon foundations established by the Second Life Discovery Day held in 2007 at Monash University, Australia. Registration for presenters and students is A$20 and for other participants A$50. In-world attendance slurls will be emailed following registration. http://avww.org/files/AVWW%20programme%20Panel%20and%20Presenters.pdf

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