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.

5 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by disability, SarahStewart. SarahStewart said: Scott Diener's vision of virtual worlds & education, especially health education: […]

  2. […] he said. ” Open them up to collaboration with others. … Here is the original: SLENZ Update, No 157, December 22, 2009 « Second Life Education … Share […]

  3. […] He had the same epiphany when he first saw and used the virtual world of Second Life, he told educat… […]

  4. Second Life itself is a walled garden. While other virtual worlds are opening themselves to hypergrid travel from one world to another and enabling creators to grant perms to make their goods portable, SL is locking avatars and their possessions up in Second Life. At the same time this year they have sent clear signals that they are no longer interested in supporting educators and non-profits, or by extension, the high quality content they produce and make available to other residents.

    I am not an educator, but rather an event organizer within Second Life, but the loss of educational sims and users has not only affected my personal experience of SL but also attendance at my events .. audience members had a goodly share of educators and students.

    We are currently in a phase of Virtual Diaspora that is fragmenting the virtual community across many platforms that serve particular needs but will any be sustainable?

  5. I am a citizen of Inworldz, another virtual world. Most of the people I meet there are SL expatriates who grew disgusted with Linden Labs lack of caring about anything other than profit. If SL is a closed dictatorship IWz is an elightened obigarchy. I mourn the loss of SL, and hearing that they no longer support educational endeavors is, indeed distressing.

    A line from one of my original songs contains this lovely descriptor “Greedy profit whores.” Do the math.

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