SLENZ PROJECT UPDATE
Foundation students to learn how to
get jobs – in virtual ‘classroom’
Students at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) are set to become the first in New Zealand to learn how to succeed in getting a job in real life through training in a virtual world.
The initial 31 students in the Foundation Learning Future Focus career planning classes will enter the virtual world of Second Life with their lecturers on Monday (August 17). They will later be joined by other Foundation Learning students from MIT as well as NorthTec and Otago Polytechnic.
The pilot programme, which is part of the Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ) Project, will eventually see more than 160 students ranging in age from 18 to 45 doing some of their classes as avatars in Second Life, a virtual world which has been in existence since 2003.
The research project is being funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand under its Encouraging and Supporting Innovation funding programme. The SLENZ Project is also running a distance education pilot programme in midwifery with Otago Polytechnic.
Expressing excitement at having two pilot programmes under way, Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) (pictured top right), joint leader of the SLENZ Project, said, the Foundation Learning pilot was quite different from the midwifery pilot where the project team had been learning how to motivate and encourage distance learners to engage with Second Life.
“The Foundation learners will be in a computer lab with their teacher so we do not have the same challenges getting them there,” she said.
“The team has designed a highly interactive experience which we hope will be lots of fun as well as effective.
“One of the key benefits is that the whole class can be involved in learning at the same time rather than sitting watching their peers stumble through role plays,” she said. “ I know from my own experience walking through what we have designed that I can laugh and learn at the same time, and seeing ‘myself’ on screen brings it alive much more than standing in a classroom trying to imagine a situation.”
In the MIT programme, led by SLENZ lead educator and MIT lecturer Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), the students will learn interview techniques through role-playing for possible positions in travel and tourism, business, engineering, social work, teaching and nursing training.
Second Life had been chosen for them to learn interviewing skills, something they all need but which is not easy to practice in a classroom environment for a variety of reasons, she added.
‘Motivating and exciting as possible’
“Second Life gave us an opportunity to deal with more students at the same time as well as making the learning engaging,” Merle said. “We are trying to make the learning process as motivating and exciting as possible to overcome any previous negative experiences in school.
“Second Life engages the students actively in the process of learning and offers them everything they need to succeed,” she said.
Tina Fitchett (pictured bottom right), Dean of MIT’s Faculty of Education and Social Science, believes that virtual learning may hold the key to learning success for foundation students.
“Research indicates that both academic and social engagement are important factors in foundation learners’ success,” Tina said. “The utilisation of technology like Second Life to support student learning brings together both of these elements. It offers an engaging, dynamic and stimulating environment for students to operate in and provides another useful tool for them to hone their practical interview skills.”
“This is also a great example of tertiary providers working collaboratively together to enhance their students’ learning,” she added.
Merle has collaborated closely with the head of the MIT Learning Technology Centre, Oriel Kelly (SL: Noumea Sands) and SLENZ Lead Developer and contract SL builder, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) in the creation and development of the virtual world learning programme, stage 1 and Stage 2 on the SLENZ island of Kowhai.
Other lecturers for the foundation programme include Maryanne Wright (SL: Nugget Mixedup), Tania Hogan (SL: Tania Wonder), NorthTec’s Martin Bryers (SL: Motini Manimbo), Vicki Pemberton (SL: Sky Zeitman) and Clinton Ashill SL: Clat Adder) and Otago Polytech’s Jane Fields (SL: Morgana Hexicola).
Filed under: Education, Education in Second Life, Education in virtual worlds, Second Life, SLENZ Project, Virtual Worlds Tagged: | Aaron Griffths, Clinton Ashill, Foundation learning, Jane Fields, Manukau Institute of Technology, Martin Bryers, Maryanne Wright, Merle Lemon, NorthTec, Oriel Kelly, Otago Polytechic, Second Life, SLENZ Project, Tania Hogan, Terry Neal, Tina Fitchett, Vicky Pemberton