The SLENZ Update – No 38, January 12, 2009

Full SL instruction ‘pays’

Post-secondary school instructors who conduct classes fully in Second Life are significantly more satisfied than those who use Second Life as only a small supplement to a real-world classes, according to an international research project  from the  University of Florida, reported in the Winter 2009 edition of the International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences.

westbowersWith respondents from 15 countries and 25 academic disciplines, the research paper, “Assessing the Value of Virtual Worlds for Post-Secondary Instructors: A Survey of Innovators, Early Adopters and the Early Majority in Second Life, was done by PhD student West Bowers (K. Westmoreland Bowers, pictured)  Matthew W. Ragas and Jeffrey C. Neely, of the University of Florida’s  College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The purpose of this study was to assess the value of Second Life among post-secondary instructors with experience using Second Life as an educational tool. Using Everett Rogers’s diffusion of innovations theory, survey respondents (N = 162), were divided into three adopter categories: innovators, early adopters and the early majority.

The number of respondents from different countries and disciplines, the authors said, indicated the considerable potential  virtual worlds,  such as Second Life, had to be adopted across many different borders and in many areas of academe.

The authors said no significant differences had been  found in the instructors’ levels of satisfaction with Second Life as an educational tool or their perceived effect on student learning across adopter categories even though instructors who conducted classes fully in Second Life were significantly more satisfied than those who used Second Life as only a small supplement to a real-world class.

“Overall, personal interest factors, rather than interpersonal communication factors, most influenced respondents’ decision to adopt Second Life as an educational tool,”  the authors said.

It appeared from the research that the instructors, despite their adopter category, found using Second Life in their curricula to be both satisfying and as having a positive impact on student learning.

“This bodes well for further diffusion and adoption of Second Life or a similar kind of virtual world program as an educational tool,”the authors said. “This is consistent with the fact that a commanding 93.8% of respondents reported they intend to use Second Life as an educational tool again.”

Respondents also had indicated that the more Second Life was integrated into the class structure, the more satisfied they were with it. they said.  Specifically, instructors who conducted classes fully in Second Life were significantly more satisfied than those who used Second Life as only a small supplement to real-world classes. For administrators and instructors considering using Second Life as an educational tool, these results indicated that a fully immersive Second Life experience, rather than isolated experimentation, could be the most rewarding.

The paper goes on to discuss the theoretical implications  of the findings and provides practical advice/suggestions.(For full paper:  http://www.waset.org/ijhss/v3/v3-1-5.pdf)

‘Real’ in WoW is really real

golubalex11Resto Shaman (Alex Golub) in WoW
(Picture WoWInsider.com)

Through studying the MMORPG, World of Warcraft, and other virtual worlds  social scientists have come to realise that “real” and “in the same room” are just not the same thing, according to Alex Golub, a Professor within the Faculty of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii.

Golub, who has previously done “immersive” anthropological research with  the people of Papua New Guinea, similar to that done early last century by Bronislaw Malinowski, has been using the same techniques to study the  culture of raiding in WoW.

“My unique angle is that I am doing anthropological fieldwork in WoW, living and playing with a raiding guild and putting in 20+ hours a week keeping them healed and decursed,”  he told WoWInsider’s Lisa Poisso in a recent interview.
With his main research themes “American cultures of self-control, efficiency, masculinity and success amongst players of WoW,” he said, he is studying how guys behave badly in Vent, and how/why people become emo and/or talk about why other people are emo.

“I’m interested in how you get a group of 25 people to keep calm and collected as they try to do something really emotionally important to them, which requires relying on other people when its difficult to see them face-to-face,” he said.

“… everyone in my (WoW) guild knows each other in “real life,” because real doesn’t mean “physical world” – it means “things that people care about,” or as an anthropologist, I’d say, “things that people in a culture care about,”  he said.  “There is a guy in my guild who works in a cheese factory, turning over 90-pound blocks of cheese all day. I bet I know him better than he knows the guys in the control room measuring cheese temperatures or whatever, even if he sees them every day.”

He expects to publish  a book 0n the culture of raiding in WoW in  2010. ( Full interview: http://www.wowinsider.com/2009/01/06/15-minutes-of-fame-anthropologist-digs-into-wow/

In SL the blind may ‘see’

slblind

It may come as a suprise but IBM is developing a prototype Virtual Worlds User Interface for the Blind.   The prototype “accessible rich Internet application” (ARIA)  gives blind users the ability to participate in many virtual world activities.

According to IBM the interface provides basic navigation, communication, and perception functions using GUI (graphical user interface) elements that are familiar to blind computer users.

As a way of enriching the virtual environment with descriptive semantic information, sighted users contribute annotations of virtual objects and places using a scripted gadget equipped by their avatar. These annotations are then made available to the blind users through the special user interface.

Although this interface for the blind is a GUI and can be used by sighted people, the virtual world space is not rendered pictorially. Instead, all information flowing to the user is text-based in order to allow compliance with ordinary screen-reading technology. Recorded verbal descriptions are also played for the user.

Currently, the application interfaces only with the Second Life platform; however, IBM says, as a long-term goal, it might be possible to make this user interface portable to more than one virtual world implementation. If successful, that portability would enable blind users to learn only one client application that is specifically tailored for their needs rather than learning a separate new application for each virtual world.

Read more at:  http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/virtualworlds/

Event

January 25-30: Linden Lab’s Inaugural Education Support Faire, in Second Life, at Supporte /151/152/36, designed  to bring together educators, academics, and students to explore the support mechanisms available to residents who use Second Life to enhance real world educational efforts. The venue is designed around a natural atmosphere with trees, rivers, and beaten paths, highlighting the theme of ‘Ecosystems of Support.’ A final list of scheduled events and participating/presenting Resident Support Organizations will be emailed to the SLED mailing list on January 21.

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