SLENZ Update, No 149, November 7, 2009


Collaboration is key to making

virtual education work in NZ

Nurse educators  ‘convinced’ of value –

the question is, how best to use it.

IMG_1151NZ nurse educators at the Wellington SLENZ meeting.

Collaboration between tertiary educational institutions in the implementation  of  virtual world education scenarios is the key to making them economic, effective and successful in a country as small as New Zealand.

This is the view of  of the joint leader of the SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins,  who has worked for 16 months on three education pilot education projects funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand to determine the benefits or otherwise of education in virtual worlds and how the benefits, if any, can be harnessed successfully by New Zealand educators.

Dr Atkins expressed her view at a meeting attended by eight leading nurse educators from a number of polytechs  in Wellington last week.

“It makes sense  to collaborate,” Atkins said. “It would be crazy to try to do things separately when you can share  and collaborate.”

She suggested that New Zealand’s Polytechs and/or Universities could band together inexpensively to increase New Zealand’s educational usage of  and presence in Second Life, around the  virtual island “archipelago” already created by the Nelson-Marlborough Insitute of Technology (NMIT), the SLENZ Project, and The University of Auckland. Virtual land for education could be made available economically within this hub area, she said.Jacoby, Jean

Atkins noted  that whereas a Second Life build from scratch, such as that of  the SLENZ Project’s midwifery pilot could cost up to NZ$30,000, collaboration by institutions both in New Zealand and overseas – and the sharing of already created facilities – could reduce on-ground, virtual world costs for individual collaborating  institutions to several hundred dollars a year, if enough were involved.

“There is no point to reinventing the wheel,” she said. “Second Life is  notable for the way educators share and collaborate.”

The one-day meeting,   sponsored by the SLENZ Project followed expressions of  interest from nurse educators who had viewed or attended presentations on the SLENZ Project’s Midwifery and Foundation Learning pilot programmes.  The nurse educators attending represented  among others, UCOL, Manukau Institute of Technology, NMIT and Whitireia Community Polytechnic. The  national co-ordinator of  nursing education in the tertiary sector, Kathryn Holloway, also attended.

Besides Atkins, the meeting also included presenations by other SLENZ Project members,  and a Second Life nursing training presentation by Second Life’s Gladys Wybrow, of  The University of Auckland.

The meeting, less than a week later,  has led to the establishment of a  “collaborative” New Zealand Polytech nurse educator project to explore and develop the potential of Second Life in Nurse Education.

The project,  Nurse Education in Second Life NZ,  based on a ning created by Jean Jacoby (pictured), an instructional designer, at the UCOL School of Nursing Palmerston North, already has  20 members.

Jacoby, who has taken on a co-ordinating role, said in a dispatch after the meeting,  “It seemed to me that none of us needs to be convinced of the value of exploring Second Life; rather we are looking for practical ways to do so.

Two main approaches

“There seemed to be two main approaches identified at the meeting,” she added. “Looking for existing builds that we can adapt or use as they are”  and/or “Identifying a small, practical project to build from scratch, for which we could potentially get funding.”

The nursing group is currently in the early stages of discussing a proposal to set up a verbal health assessment scenario, with the nurse getting the information from the patient.

According to Susie le Page, also of UCOL,  this suggested Second Life application could be applied across a number of nursing areas, including midwifery, mental health and the medical/ surgical community.

Meanwhile commenting on the meeting the SLENZ Project’s lead educator for Otago Polytech’s Midwifery pilot on Kowhai in Second Life, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) offered advice, based on her Second Life experience, to the  nurse educators.

Stewart said nurse educators contemplating using Second Life should:  find a Second Life mentor and learn as much as you can about how Second Life works; network with other nurse and health professionals using SL using online communication tools such as blogs, YouTube, Slideshare and of course, Second Life; develop learning activities in Second Life that require little or no development to keep things as inexpensive and easy as possible; work alongside your educational institution to ensure you have full access to Second Life; collaborate with each other using virtual tools such as wiki, Google Docs, Skype and Second Life.

At the same time as the nurse educator meeting SLENZ Project joint leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) and  Foundation Learning pilot lead educator, MIT’s Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) briefed representatives of the Open Polytechnic, UCOL, CPIT and Wairakei Polytech at another venue, delivering  a similar message to that of Atkins.

EVENT -Kiwi educators

Sunday 8 November 7 pm (NZ Time) – meet on Koru shortly before  7pm: This week Kiwi Educators have been invited to tour the University of Western Australia sim. Our guide will be Jayjay Zifanwe, owner of the UWA sim. Highlights of the tour will be the main landing area, Sunken Gardens, Sky Theatre, Square Kilometer Array, Visualisation Research & the 3D Art & Design Challenge. This amazing SL campus is a pefect combination of realism and fantasy and well worth a visit. – Briarmelle Quintessa.


The SLENZ Update – No 53, March 10, 2009

Getting  right ‘message’

and/or where to read it


There has been considerable debate within the SLENZ Project on just how team members can communicate with each other effectively, in context, in timely fashion, and in the same “language”  without being  buried under a mass of  information both relevant and extraneous.

The major part of the  communications dilemma – a problem apparently inherent to the initial stages of most  if not all virtual world projects built by committee –  has been the plethora of communication methods used by participants, and perceived, by the individuals using them, as having the same weight as other chosen channels. The channels have ranged from blogs, to e-mails, and email lists, to skype, to instant messaging, to twitter, googledocs, and recorded/minuted face-to-face meetings (in SL and RL).

Joint SLENZ Project leader, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust-pictured), however, has now come up with what appears a workable solution to the virtual morass that the SLENZ communciation/documentation was apparently in danger of becoming swamped by. In fact, at one stage from the outside, it appeared team members were suffering from information overload not knowing where each was at and failing in attemptingarwenna_002 to sort extraneous and out-of-date material from the deluge, with each having a different viewpoint.

“We have struggled to figure out the best way of keeping us all in touch with the latest versions of documents, the latest thinking on our development process and how to work collaboratively and collegially,” Atkins said in  an e-mail to members, after thanking them for their”patience.”

“I know that it has been frustrating at times for all of us but I hope we are working towards a better solution,” she said. ” I don’t think it is yet the ‘best’ solution but I am confident it will be an improvement.”
She  said that, if one visited the SLENZ Update blog and chose the SLENZ tab now, one would find a static (i.e. not a frequently changing ) page relating to the SLENZ Project.

“From there you can follow the link to the project development page.
Alternatively, she said, one could  bookmark from where one could find links to various documents.

These include:

  • The Project Development Roadmap – this is the current version of the process of development that SLENZ is following. “This is a google document that has been published as a web page,” Atkins said. “This means that anyone can read it but only those invited to collaborate on it can edit it. I am going to restrict the people who can edit it for now so that changes to the process are all agreed before we publicise the change by way of the document. This will ensure that the document always reflects the baseline that we are currently working to.”
  • Working Documents – There also are working google documents for each of the sub-projects. These are  viewable by anyone but will be editable by only those who are collaborators. Any changes made to the documents will be instantly reflected in the public version. “Once again, it should mean that we all always have access to the latest document,” Atkins said.

“This process is only going to work  if we all agree to work on these versions of the files – as soon as we start working with a private copy or with a new document that is not on the page then we are going to run into trouble again,” she said. “As a new document is needed or created please please please share it with me and then I can publish it. Of course you may have documents or emails that flow between you and that is fine – but be aware that they are just private, personal documents until we have them up on the site.
“I am as desperate as you are to find a solution to this document management problem – it is one of the major headaches of virtual team work I am sure,” she said. “Any improvements, problems or comments please let me know as soon as possible. Also let me know if you feel that there are other documents that should be here (on the same basis as above).”
“While I am happy to see links to blog discussions within the documents, my personal opinion is that the blogs are a discussion tool not a documentation tool,” she said. “The ‘documents’ should be capturing and summarising, if necessary, the decisions that have been made as the discussions progressed.

“My intention with the documents has always been to provide a baseline of agreed information on which others could base their work, even though there may be change with refinement or further discussion,”  Atkins concluded