CAN NEW ZEALAND USE THIS LESSON?
Texas shows the way forward in
virtual world education …
John Lester (SL: Pathfinder Linden) and Leslie Jarmon (SL: Bluewave Ogee)
meet in front of the virtual version of Johnson Claudia Taylor Hall
at the University of Texas System.(Picture: Pathfinder Linden)
The New Zealand tertiary education system should probably be looking at following the virtual lead of the University of Texas, although perhaps not on a such a grand scale.
After four years of research and “toe-dabbling” the University of Texas has launched its State-wide 16-campus system into Second Life as part of a year-long project that will bring students, faculty, researchers and administrators into Second Life to explore the use of virtual worlds as “an innovative, low-cost approach to undergraduate instruction.”
At the same time the New Zealand tertiary education system remains at the stage of “toe-dabbling” with the arguably successful SLENZ Project slated to finish at the end of the year and the OpenSim ONGENS New Zealand National Grid Project simmering – one might unkindly say bumbling – along in Alpha mode with inadequate funding and resources despite a small band of hard-working devotees doing their best to create a homegrown virtual world and build support across the whole New Zealand university spectrum.
That the Texas lesson, created by the UT System Transforming Undergraduate Education Program initiative, is being taken to heart, however, can be gauged from the fact that 0ne of the main ONGENS “builders” and virtual world enthusiast, University of Auckland academic Dr Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), describes it as “an astonishing development … in scale and concept.”
But despite some tardiness here all is not lost. The UT research into virtual world education is to be made freely available to educators/researchers around the world and there will be opportunities for collaboration with the UT campuses, something New Zealand educators should look into.
The University of Texas’ Dr Leslie Jarmon (pictured right), Faculty Development Specialist and Senior Lecturer in the Division of Instructional Innovation & Assessment (CIE/DIIA), at the University of Texas, at Austin, co-founder of the Educators Coop in SL, and the primary investigator for this statewide initiative, told Linden Labs’ John Lester that the the biggest challenge to gaining approval for the initial one-year, 50-plus-SL region launch of the project had been finding the most effective language and concrete Second Life examples to craft a proposal that would be heard by key administrators.
In a lesson for New Zealand educators seeking virtual world education funding, she said, “When an opportunity arose, a real time demo of Second Life using Voice with real educators and Linden Lab officials answering the Chancellors’ questions right there on the spot was more effective than 100 pages of textual description. Very pragmatic, concrete, visionary at the same time.”
Another key challenge, she said, had been rigorously ensuring that the provision of the virtual infrastructure for 15 campuses (9 academic campuses; 6 medical health science center campuses) and information and training support would not dictate which direction each campus would take as they discovered and created their own unique learning and research journeys.
“We’re meeting this challenge with the overriding mission of creating together a virtual learning community,” she told John Lester. ” Virtual worlds are a new human dimension for educational activity, and we¹re constantly exploring and learning alongside one another.”
“Step-by-step in this evolving system-wide virtual learning community, all of these players — and especially our undergraduates — will be seen as learners with expanded roles: learners as scientists, learners as designers, learners as researchers, learners as communicators, and learners as collaborators. We see endless possibilities on the virtual learning horizon.”
UT campus Leads meet Second Life officials in Austin Texas to lay the foundation
for the Virtual Learning Community Initiative (VLCI). (Picture VLCI)
Filed under: Distance education, Education, Education in Second Life, Education in virtual worlds, ONGENS, Second Life, SL Medicine, SLENZ Project, Virtual Worlds | Tagged: Educators Coop, John Lester, Leslie Jarmon, Linden Labs, Ongens, Second Life, slenz, University of Auckland, University of Texas |