MUVE education at NMIT– VLENZ Update, No 176, August 11, 2010

New Zealand  MUVE activity

NMIT launches  course covering

3d immersive environments

Class of 2010: The first NMIT class in 3d immersive environments.

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology  has successfully launched and is into the fourth week of an online course on multi-user three dimensional virtual environments (MUVEs) and their relationships to other multi-user technologies.

The 16 students, enrolled in the course (A&M624, Immersive 3D Environments), based on  the  NMIT Second Life islands  of Koru and Kowhai, are being tutored on-campus by Dr  Clare Atkins  (SL: Arwenna Stardust) and online by former SLENZ developer and New Zealand’s most experienced virtual world builder, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman).

Dr Clare Atkins

The course has been designed to  develop knowledge and understanding of using current generation commercial software as well as providing in-depth knowledge of specialised processes, techniques and media, according to Dr Atkins.

While the course includes explorations of other virtual environments, most of the classes  focus on the use of Second Life.

The course will take 60 hours class time,  with at least  half the classes in a virtual world, mainly Second Life.

Dr Atkins and Griffiths are known in New Zealand for creating and championing the successful $NZ500,00 Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ) Project,  which  over an 18-month period created and established two pilot  education programmes, one with Otago Polytechnic in midwifery, and the  other  in Foundation (Bridging) Learning  with Manakau Institute of Technology.  The  Foundation Learning course, under  the leadership of MIT lecturer Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), has now become a permanent course within the MIT structure, with a large number of students participating in it.  Otago Polytechnic, however, decided at the conclusion of the pilot programme not to take the midwifery course any further.

Aaron Griffiths

Commenting on the first couple of NMIT classes Griffiths said that although the students  had appeared reluctant at first they had  quickly realised the potential (of Second Life) “… that it’s more than a game” with the student blogs starting to show their realisation of this.

” I am well pleased with this class…. most seem committed to learning ,” he said.   “Building  is slow, of course(and its) a HUGE step for many of them. I guess I am rather passionate about these environment … hopefully that rubs off on some.”

” The hardest part really is the limited time I have with them …  (there is) one hell of a lot to get across in such short spaces of time.”

Griffiths and Atkins  are detailing  the class’ activities  in a  blog, Immersive 3d environments, which also links into the student blogs:   this blog gives an interesting glimpse into how the lessons are constructed and are proceeding as well as student reactions.

SLENZ, VLENZ Update, No 170, April 22, 2010

Latest  SLENZ  Project/NZ VW news

SLENZ Project  may be over but

lecturers still use the builds

Foundation Learning  in use, free builds popular, viewing  by Indian Minister

The Wellington-based  Natraj School of Dance welcomes
the Hon. Minster Sibal and Indian delegates to WelTec.

The Second Life Education New Zealand Project may have been concluded but things are still happening on the  Second Life island of  Kowhai where  the Foundation (Bridging) Learning and Birth Centre builds are  sited.

SLENZ lead educator Merle Lemon, (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), of the Manukau Institute of Technology, and other lecturers are continuing to use the Foundation Learning build for normal real life classes in interview preparation, practise and assessment as part of that school’s Foundation Learning programme.

And the lead educator for the Midwifery Studies  pilot programme run by Otago Polytechnic, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) has fielded a number of enquiries from British and US academic institutions  interested in making use of the  Birth Unit build as well as the knowledge gained from teaching in it.

At the same time more than 50  free-to-the-public, full permission  Foundation Learning builds and more  than 15 Midwifery Studies’  Birth Unit builds, created by SLENZ Project Lead Developer Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman), have been picked up from the Kowhai Island welcome area. Goodman has also begun a series of tutorials and advice on the builds  here and  the first of series of articles looking at scripting of the builds here.

India’s HR Minister views SL

Toddles Lightworker (left), of WelTec, greets guests from New Zealand
and India who attended the  Indian Minister’s WelTec SL “viewing”.

Meanwhile on the neighbouring island of Koru, also run by  Nelson Marlborough Institute of  Technology,  SLENZ developer  and Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) lecturer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) hosted a  Second Life  ‘viewing’ by  India’s  Hon. Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resources Development (India’s equivalent of the NZ Minister of Education) during a visit to the Wellington Institution.

The Minister’s viewing – he asked a question about accessing Second Life from India  as there were  India-based researchers present in Second Life  –  came as part of discussions on collaboration with New Zealand in the area of vocational training and technology. Cochrane has a  special interest in  the use of virtual worlds for vocational training and technology. The meeting was also attended by Arwenna Stardust (RL: SLENZ Project joint leader, Dr Clare Atkins).

During his visit to WelTec the minister spoke about India’s immense demand for education and training with a population of more than 546 million under the age of 25.

WelTec CEO Dr Linda Sissons  said, “India and New Zealand share a special relationship in the fields of vocational education, applied research and innovation … both face unprecedented social and economic challenges and also have tremendous opportunities in co-operation, especially in the technical and vocational education and training sector.

The New Zealand government has also recently reaffirmed its commitment to an international relationship with India. and both nations confirmed their commitment to deepening education cooperation with the resigning of an Education Cooperation Arrangement, which was first signed in 2005.

An SL visitor from Mumbai, Zeus Zetkin, as Ghandi, with the University of Auckland's JudyArx Scribe  at  the WelTech  Sl viewing.

In SL for the “viewing”, Mumbai’s Zeus Zetkin,  (RL: Siddharth Banerjee, of Indusgeeks.com), as Ghandi and
JudyArx Scribe (RL: Judy Cockeram, of the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture).

SLENZ Project, VLENZ Update No 168, March 26, 2010

SLENZ  PROJECT DOES IT AGAIN

Midwifery Studies Build 1.0

available free to public

Much of the SLENZ birth unit featured in this PookyMedia
machinima has been made available free of charge.

The SLENZ Project  announced today that its Midwifery Studies Build Version 1.0, is now available for free pickup from the  Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT)  Second Life  island of Kowhai.

The build is being made available by NMIT, which ran the the New Zealand Government-funded SLENZ Project, under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 3.0.

The Midwifery Studies Build is the second to  be made available to  the public. The project has previously made its Foundation (Bridging) Learning Build available under the same criteria.

The full details of  both packages  are available on Lead Developer Aaron Griffiths’  The SLENZ Builds Technical Blog

The  packaging of the builds marks the culmination of the 18-month, $NZ500,000 SLENZ Project, the team members of which have now launched Virtual Life Education New Zealand to continue   their research as well as  to provide advice to virtual world users.

Call for “sharing, collaboration”

“Making the midwifery build available to the public means that the final deliverable for the SLENZ Project is now done,” SLENZ Project joint leader Terry Neal said.

In another sense, however, she said,  it is just the beginning.”

The team was thrilled that scores of  people had picked up the Foundation Build and hoped that the interest in the Midwifery Build would be similar. “Our dream is that learners all around the world can benefit from what we have done,” she said. “We also hope that others will imitate us in making what they develop freely available.

“Development in virtual worlds is not cheap and the more we can share rather than duplicating our efforts, the more we will have  available for all of us.”

Neal said she would love to see educators  all over the world focusing on “how we can design, develop and use virtual environments to significantly improve how all people learn, rather than creating builds for ourselves and locking them away.

“The cost is in creating not sharing,” she said. “However, I know people have to make a living and organisations vary in their commitment to a more sharing approach.”

Neal paid tribute to the Tertiary Education Commission and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology for their commitment “to sharing so generously”.

The Midwifery Studies Build (791 prims) contains all the items required for the Normal Birth Scenario developed by the SLENZ team for the SLENZ Project midwifery pilot, including the birthing room, midwives’ office, treatment room and outdoor courtyard.  Ceilings on the rooms have been removed to facilitate camera access.   The SLENZ Midwifery Studies Resource Pack includes the SLENZ Mother Controller (HUDs created by SLENZ Developer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker).
All package items are full permissions.

The Birthing Unit build, now available free.

The items are provided inside a 24 x 40 metre megaprim base (SLENZ Midwifery Studies Rez Base) and can be rezzed from this base once it is positioned.

Griffiths plans to hold technical discussions which will focus on a users’ first interaction with the Foundation Studies and Midwifery Builds.  It will look at the scripts used to welcome users and offer them introductory information.

He is available for help with the builds  and would appreciate feedback [debnaar@clear.net.nz]. Griffiths is currently investigating the production of OAR files for both builds so they can be used in alternative OpenSim environments.

The Midwifery pilot was conducted in conjunction with Otago Polytechnic and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).  Midwife Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) was the Lead educator on the project.

Pickup your Birth Unit Build from the pyramid right foreground.

SLENZ Build FREE, VLENZ No 167, March 16, 2010

SLENZ Project  Foundation Learning

Build now available FREE

Creative Commons license

The Foundation Learning build, now available FREE, under CC license.

The SLENZ Project’s much-praised Second Life Foundation (Bridging) Learning  Build (Version 1.0) is now available FREE, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, from the Second Life island of Kowhai.

The key section of the  SLENZ Project’s Second Life Midwifery Education Birth Unit build is also to be made available shortly.

The announcement of the availability of the Foundation Learning Build was made today  by the SLENZ Project’s Lead Developer Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) on a newly setup blog, The SLENZ Project Technical Blog, where Griffiths plans to  discuss the ongoing development of the two builds following completion of the SLENZ Project.

Commenting on the announcement, the creator and joint leader of the SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins, of Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, said, “We in the SLENZ Project  are delighted that we have been able to  fulfill our original plan of making the  builds available to the public. This is the culmination of our dream.  We hope it will set a benchmark for others involved in education in  Virtual Worlds, not only Second Life.  We also hope that others will extend and enhance our builds and we look forward to seeing the exciting and innovative ways in which they will be put to use.”

Aaron Griffiths, SL builder.

The build, which has been made available for pickup, includes textures, animations and scripts for the Skill Mastery Hyperdome with all rezzable scenes  (including the Stairway of Learning) and the private interview room teleporters. All build items are full permissions except for a few clothing items, some hair provided for the Hyperdome shop, and a few seating animations.

“The build items are provided inside a 60 x 80 metre megaprim base (SLENZ Foundation Studies Rez Base) and can be rezzed from this base once it is positioned.” Griffiths said.

The SLENZ Hyperdome, a holodeck, contains a number of rezzable scenes designed  to help students learn and practise interview techniques as well as prepare for real life job or tertiary study interviews.

The Stairway of Learning is a dual staircase surrounding the Hyperdome and is designed to deliver learning information about interview preparation. The “private interview room” teleporters, placed near the front of the Hyperdome, allow individual, supervisor-configurable, interview rooms to be rezzed on demand for students to practice in.
The SLENZ Project which ran for 18 months was financed by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand. It was designed to determine  whether there were  any benefits from  using Virtual Worlds for education and to  establish how those benefits could be harnessed.

Pickup the Foundation Learning Build free from under the pyramid in the left of the picture. http://slurl.com/secondlife/Kowhai/146/115/32

SLENZ Update, No 148, November 4, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT – final F2F

SLENZERs celebrate ‘completion’

of virtual world  work …

now  team awaits official evaluation

IMG_1116The SLENZ Project team … final face-to-face meeting and debriefing.

The SLENZ Project team celebrated its successes last week at a real life face-to-face meeting in Wellington, New Zealand.

The meeting, which  included a warts-and-all debriefing of all team members, was marked by an unanimity of views on project outcomes in a team which  has occasionally been rift by  differences of nuance and interpretation over the  16 months of its scheduled 18-month life span.

The NZ$500,000 Second Life/Real Life project, which was funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand, has been designed  to determine  whether and how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) can benefit New Zealand education and, and if they are of benefit,  how the benefits can best be harvested.

Despite the fact the  formal evaluation  has not been completed  team members appeared in no doubt that most, if not all, of the  objectives of the three pilot programmes – Midwifery, Foundation (Bridging) Learning and Orientation – had been met.IMG_1127

The lead evaluator, Michael Winter (pictured right), of CORE Education,  who attended the meeting – although not pre-empting his formal evaluation, due before year end  –  seemed upbeat about  the project and said he  had been impressed with communication skills displayed by the team.  .

“I was really impressed with the level of communication and  the way people were working together,” he said. “It was a pretty tight ship in terms  of communication.

He added, however, that the project might have been somewhat hindered by a number of technical issues, including  bandwidth (Ed note: Possibly perculiar to New Zealand); institutional technology and firewall issues. He  added that there had been some resistance to what was perceived as “gaming” by some students;  and that there was a necessity for designing the e-learning experiences properly to  increase engagement. He also cautioned about an underlying concern about the “sleezier side of Second Life” which  the press has focused on.

Summing up her feelings about the project, joint project leader Dr Clare Atkins said, she was “incredibly proud of what we have done.

IMG_1121“I’ve learned some amazing lessons how not to do many things,” she said to laughter.

Despite the barriers to adoption of MUVEs for education in New Zealand,  Atkins said, she now  “absolutely believed”  that “the use of these types of environments and kinds of education are  going to change  the way everyone teaches, how they teach  and the way we think about teaching within 20 years.

“I believe its really important  not only to look for the next project,” she added, ” but also to offer everything (that we have learned) we can to others in education.”

In the debriefing team members  agreed the staged approach to the SLENZ Project had been one of the major keys to the success of the project.

“In fact,” Atkins said, ” I would recommend next time that we should go for even shorter stages – each with its own discrete documentation. For example we could perhaps have broken Midwifery Stage 1 down further into a) the build of the Birth Unit b) the ‘fitting out’ of the birth unit with information.”

Other things that  had worked well had included  the regular team meetings with voice in  Second Life and the face-to-face meetings for getting acquainted and determining agendas for further Project Stages.

Barriers or obstacles to development of the pilot programmes chosen for implementation, included, according to a list compiled from the discussions by  joint project leader, Terry Neal (pictured lower left):

  • Communication: Not having a one-stop shop for all documents from the start of the project. This was implemented when problems arose  after the project  had been launched.
  • Immersion: A lack of pre-project immersion by some tutors, team members. It was felt by some team members that for education to succeed in virtual worlds it is essential that promoters/champions/teachers and tutors be “immersed” in virtual worlds rather than just being “active” before launching into  educating students. This was coupled with a the lack of educator release time for immersion in world.
  • Learning Designer: The need for a Learning Designer or Educator  to be fully  “immersed” so that he/she could specify exactly what was needed based on their own knowledge.
  • Roleplaying Experience:  At launch a lack of MUVE roleplaying experience on the part of tutors, preventing them from having a complete understanding of what could and could not be done in a virtual environment.
  • Clarity: More clarity was needed around the setting of pilot  objectives/initial learning design specifications and the expected/required outcomes.

Things that were seen as an aid to project development included:

  • The use of “immersed” mentors/helpers for new tutors and students.
  • The employment of a professional MUVE builder/scripter rather than attempting to get teachers/tutors up to speed in this area. It was observed that teaching  should be left to teachers/facilitators, and building and facility development to MUVE building/scripting professionals.

Summing up the consensus feeling and her feelings at the debriefing, Neal said, she  thought the team could have done a lot worse, but it could have done a better job too.
Team members were all given a Taonga ( treasure) at the end of the session.

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.

SLENZ Update, No 140, September 28, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

Virtual world makes mastering

interview skills  much easier

… when virtual ‘really feels real’

“Fabulous”,  “amazing” and “fantastic” were only three of the superlatives used by the  more than 20  educators and researchers who toured the SLENZ Project’s two builds on Kowhai  in Second Life and listened to commentary from educators, developers and builders during the  virtual worlds’  prestigious, annual Jokaydia Unconference  on  Sunday.

The superlatives were used  by virtual visitors from around the world to describe  the concepts, designs, the builds and the practises being  used in the the SLENZ Project’s two pilot education programmes,  Foundation Learning (Bridging Education), under lead educator, Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), of Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland,  and Midwifery under lead educator, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), of Otago Polytechnic.

The Jokaydia attendees probably  would have been even more blown away had they   been able to watch the Pooky Media [producer Pooky Amsterdam,  director Russell (Rosco) Boyd]  machinima production  on  Foundation Learning, “Foundation Interviewing in Second Life,”  which was placed on general  release on YouTube later that the day.

Jo Kay, herself, one of Australia’s leading virtual world educators, said of  the video, “Impressive! Congratulations too all involved in the project and the video,” and   SL’s PimPeccable commented,  “Brilliant and professional.”

BirthUnit jokay unconference_019Arwenna Stardust (RL: Dr Clare Atkins) talks to the Unconference visitors.
BirthUnit jokay unconference_015Inside the  Skill Mastery Hyperdome …  demonstrating a “catwalk” rezzed.

The Skill Mastery Hyperdome, the centre of  the foundation learning  “class space”,  is described by PookyMedia in the preamble to the YouTube video, as “a step into the future, an environment in which students can learn, develop and practise skills that will help them progress on their career pathways and achieve their life goals.”

And it obviously is – and eventually, like the Birthing Centre,  will become the SLENZ Project’s “gift” to virtual world education, having been created under Creative Commons attribution license in OpenSource. It is scheduled to be made freely available  with all bells, whistles, scripts and animations in Second Life on completion of the project.

Foundation students who are use the Hyperdrome build are preparing to enter academic and/or training courses as diverse as nursing, teaching, business, police, travel and tourism, IT, engineering, and social work. Foundation Studies provides the basic building blocks and the scaffolding to enable students to enter and succeed in their selected career pathway.

Acitivites provided in this build are designed to enhance communication skills, specifically the skills needed in an interview situation. These students can  select appropriate interview apparel from Rapungakore (“…you have come to the right place”), the clothing store,  which is part of the Hyperdome.

Noting that irrespective of their ultimate career goal all students will need to develop interview skills and strategies,  Merle Lemon,  has pointed out that the hyperdrome environment allows students to experience virtual interviews, to take on the roles of both interviewer and interviewee, and to develop confidence in answering and asking questions in a professional manner.

“The opportunity to rehearse variations of the interview scenario will lead to further enlightenment through reflective evaluation and deliberation on their own behaviour in action,” she said.

The Manukau Institute of Technology  students, whose reactions are canvassed in the video, find that  the Second interviews “really feel real” with one student even worrying that he was being interviewed for a “real job” which he couldn’t accept accept because of his student commitments.

The SLENZ Project is funded by the New Zealand Government”s Tertiary Education Commission.

BirthUnit jokay unconference_011The Unconference participants tour the birth centre.

SLENZ Update, No 134, September 02, 2009

Lest we forget unsung heroes …

Design and building  in Second

Life really is hard ‘yakka*’

… an ‘Oscar’ for Isa/Aaron?

koru100809_001Isa Goodman (aka Aaron Griffiths), Second Life builder

It’s easy to forget that the often unsung heroes of virtual worlds are the builders – the on-the-virtual-ground developers, scripters, animators but  especially the builders.

As educators it should be easy for us to specify what we want  – after all we’ve generally been giving similar lessons in real life – but then it is much more difficult for  the developer-builder  to turn one’s dreams into reality, especially if those dreams  are just pie-in-the-sky impossibilities, conjured up by people with little experience or “immersion” in virtual worlds.

However, the kudos for turning “impossible dreams” into some sort of reality, more often than not, goes to  the publicity-conscious academics leading a programme rather than the builders and developers who toil, mostly anonymously, behind their screens, trying to meet impossible time and financial constraints, and who are then forgotten in  the praise heaped on the successful project promoters.

All educators, before they embark on the design of a learning opportunity in a virtual world, should clearly understand that content creation and development in virtual worlds is hard “yakka*”.   They also should not forget that praise should go to the builder if a design works. The builders know only too well that if a project fails, they, the builders, will be blamed by the academics for its failure.

Birth1_002In the beginning…

Unlike the academics, however,  most top-notch builders I have met have been loath to accept written praise or credit  despite the fact that their livelihood often depends on them getting on-going work in virtual worlds.

In the SLENZ Project we have one top-notch builder, Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman), of F/Xual Education Services (email:  debnaar@clear dot net dot nz),  who is the Lead Developer “genius” who has created the SLENZ Project’s  foundation learning  and midwifery pilot builds, scripts, textures, animations etc from what  initially were little more than fuzzy ideas. Aided by developers/builders NMIT’s Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), who doubles as the SLENZ Project’s co leader,   and WelTech’s Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) Aaron has created from scratch the builds which you can see on Kowhai today,  on time and on budget.

But let him tell you himself what it was like, even though  I believe  he would not want the limelight. Fortunately he has he described how it is in a letter to Metaverse Health, which in its otherwise well-intentioned and fulsome article on the SLENZ Project’s Midwifery Pilot promotional machinima, unfortunately gave no credits to the SLENZ Project builders.

Answering criticism in a comment on the article, that a partner was not present in the midwifery birthing machinima, Aaron noted it had been intended to have a partner present but this  had been finally precluded by having to meet deadlines and budget constraints.

“Unfortunately in the end to meet the deadlines set by the fact the students were coming into the build on a specific date, the scripting, animations and building required to have a partner (of whatever gender) present in the scenarios just did not happen,” he said, before going on  to describe the build and the work involved.

“This  (midwifery build) was a very complex build designed out of very little in terms of actual specifics, reassessed and recreated on an ongoing basis through discussion with the educators,” he said, by way of explanation. “The build was divided into stages so that at least, even if the ideal could not be developed within the budgeted hours,  we would have finished stages at points throughout the process which could be considered complete resources.

birthingfinal_002

The finished Birth Centre … interior.

“Stage one therefore gave us the actual unit, created as an immersive experience of an “ideal birthing unit” complete with notecards and links out to information supporting the theory associated with the design.

“Stage two (which we have reached) … steps the midwife through a normal birthing process in terms of her interactions with the mother from the first phone call into the unit through to the actual birth.

“The scenario goes beyond a simple role play of mother and midwife to include the numerous clinical requirements of the process such as blood pressure and temperature readings, preparation of medical equipment and medications, good practice requirements, e.g. use of sterile gloves in examination, washing of hands etc.

“Stage three was intended to extend the scenarios to include not only a partner (or whanau depending on ethnic considerations) but more difficult births such as postpartum hemorrhage, i.e. birth scenarios typically not experienced by midwifery trainees.

“… deadlines and budget restrictions (read as we used it all up by the end of stage two – 300 hours for the Birth Centre build)  have meant that further developments will not happen under this project’s funding.” he said. “That is not to say they wont happen. As the resources provided are Creative Commons they will be packaged with as much instruction as I have time to develop so that others may carry on taking the scenarios further.”

Finally to put some perspective on the task Aaron has completed with the midwifery pilot (all originals to allow for full permissions under a Creative Commons license) the build now has more than 2600 objects, more than 250 scripts, not including HUDs worn by the mother and midwife, 16 animations and poses, and more than 100 textures.

If there are  Oscars for the creation of virtual world education builds, Aaron should be  in line to get one for his midwifery pilot, if not for both his midwifery and foundation learning builds.

birthingfinal_001The finished Birth Centre … exterior back.
birthingfinal_004
The finished Birth Centre … exterior front.
birthingfinal_005… and Isa Goodman/Aaron Griffiths’ Foundation Learning build.
*Yakka: Australian venacular for very hard work.

SLENZ Update, No 130, August 20, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

First classes of Foundation Learners –

excited , motivated, enthusiastic …

“Even the most unenthusiastic and unmotivated students were “sucked into” the excitement of the virtual environment!”

Merle Lemon, SLENZ lead  educator, Manukau Institute of  Technology, Aotearoa-New Zealand.

foundation pilotpicSmiling Foundation Learning student Aziz Qasimi (SL: a280q Engineer) at
the first class on the Foundation Learning site on Kowhai in Second Life.

By their very nature Foundation Learning classes can be difficult  for students and lecturers alike.

The students are often there because  they have been spat out by the education system somewhere along the way. And the lecturers, although dedicated, are often disheartened by the attitudes of students who have been turned away or who have turned away from getting even a modicum of  necessary normal, modern-day life skills to enable one to survive successfully in an ordinary, mainstream world.

Therefore it was with some trepidation that SLENZ Project lead educator Merle Lemon (pictured) (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) launched her Manukau Institute of Technology Foundation Learning  classes on the island of Kowhai in Second Life this week.

It’s early days yet but  but with two classes successfully undertaken she  is no longer holding her breath.Lemon, merle2

Speaking of  her second day’s teaching classes designed for students to learn  interview techniques, she said, “The first class today was new to Second Life. The start of the class was slow-moving as four students had no avatars, despite repeated reminders that this had to be done for homework. One student created an avatar in the lab and three students ended up using avatars that were provided for them

“This class was not easy! A couple of students were reluctant to sit down at the computers, but once into Second Life, they became engaged and seemed to really enjoy their activities. Even the most unenthusiastic and unmotivated students were ‘sucked into’ the excitement of the virtual environment!”

Commenting on another class, entering Second Life for only the second time , she said, ” This lesson went like clockwork, and students were fully engaged … the students are all ready and anxious to begin interviewing practise in Second Life … “

Her first session three days earlier had had “good and bad moments”, some of the problems caused by campus logistics, lagging, visitors to the new class, observers and absenteeism.

But even so  student motivation appeared ” extremely high”.

“… it was so high it was hard to hold them back in any way,” Merle said. “They wanted to try the next thing, learn the next skill, just continually moving forward at a break-neck pace.”

Describing her personal feelings now that her pilot program has been launched, Merle said, “I believe (the first week of classes) a success.  Second Life proved to be motivating and fun.  It was very rewarding seeing students making such huge progress in a single session of learning in Second Life.  I can’t wait for the interviewing to begin.”

kowhaifoundationThe Foundation Learning area on Kowhai

SLENZ Update, No 126, August 12, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT UPDATE

Foundation students to learn how to

get jobs – in virtual ‘classroom’

interview room_001_002

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.Photo Terry-1

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.fitchettT

“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).