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 142, October 6, 2009

THE SLENZ WORKSHOPS AT Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009

Five lessons from the creation of

education pilots  in Second Life

IMG_0803SL’s Arwenna Stardust and RL’s Dr Clare Atkins make a point.

The five SLENZ Project workshops attended by mainstream tertiary educators at  the  annual, national Teaching  and Learning/eFest 2009 conference, at UCOL, Palmerston North, New Zealand, last week,  provided some valuable tips for  the administration and creation of virtual world education.

I thought the lessons  important enough to provide summaries of some of them for educators and administrators who could not attend the conference. The first  summary is below.

The SLENZ Project team members who presented at the conference  included, SLENZ Project co leaders, Dr Clare Atkins and Terry Neal; Merle Lemon, lead educator  for the foundation learning pilot at  Manukau Institute of Technology, and  Oriel Kelly, manager of MIT’s  Learning  Environment Support Technology Centre;  Lead developer, Aaron Griffiths, of F/Xual Education Services;  and   Todd Cochrane,  a SLENZ developer  and lecturer at WelTec.

Funding for the SLENZ Project was provided by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand, a Government body.

1. “Working effectively in a virtual team”

[Presented by  SLENZ Project co-leaders, Dr Clare Atkins, of NMIT, and Terry  Neal, of Blended Solutions.]

The core team was made up of two parts:  students, educators, learning designer, Project Leader Second Life, (Atkins)  and the developers,  in one box, and the evaluator, communications and Project Leader Real Life (Neal) in the other. Although theoretically all the  roles  were to have worked together in practice they overlapped.

The core team was supported by a project administrator, literature reviewer,  web developer, other educators (10), IT support (4), video makers (2),  the steering group (9) and the friends of the project who sometimes attended meetings  on the Second Life island of Koru or provided advice via email or other means.

Forming: The creation  of the project evolved out of Dr Clare Atkin’s network through one-to-one phone conversations, the formulation of a Project Execution Plan and a face-to-face meeting at which modifications were made. Those modifications included the addition of a communications role. In Second Life the “forming* of the SLENZ Project included the creation of avatars, support for  newbie players on the team and the formulation of  agreed meeting protocols.

Storming: The design and development phases of the project  included a process to agree process, the agreement on process,  open versus closed interaction, the learning design – considering access or focus on in-world experience, and discussion of the implications of creative commons licence, which will eventually lead to the team’s Second Life work and builds being made freely available with full permissions.

Norming: Communication and problem solving  was done  through weekly in-world team meetings on the island of Koru, weekly Skype calls by Neal, weekly development team meetings  led by Atkins,  a weekly catchup/review by Atkins and Neal, and  the provision of publicly available documentation through all stages of the project.

Performing: The project proceeded with the ongoing use of established processes,  celebration of milestones and  achievements – something often missing in virtual projects –   and the linking in of educators, through the lead educator in each of the pilots,  and the linking in of the evaluator  by Neal.   Extra  team roles were developed with the appointment of a web developer and video developers.

Adjourning ( or the winding down and completion of the project): A final face-to-face team meeting will be held, with the team sharing what it can over the final three months to the winding up and clear finish.

Keys to success: According to both Atkins and Neal the keys to the success of the Project were/are: the establishment of a clear prupose, clear roles, the use of  multiple communications methods, including a variety of online tools and text and voice communication; dual project leadership, and constant monitoring of the progress and well-being of the team.

Next blog:  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 also of MIT.

eFest unconference workshop demos

IMG_0807 SLENZ co-leader Terry Neal (right) gives an
unscheduled demonstration of SLIMG_0809Griffiths  points out a detail to a polytech lecturer.

IMG_0806

Educators Trevor Forest, of Rotorua, and his wife watch
a demo by SLENZ ‘adviser’, Warren Masterson

SLENZ Update, No 141, October 6, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

SLENZ teams finds new ‘acceptance,

enthusiasm’  at    education  gabfest

… Need seen to retain team skills, post-SLENZ Project

IMG_0846Almost full house … Aaron Griffiths details a Developer’s work.
as the SLENZ Lead Developer/builder.

Growing “acceptance” of Second Life as an education medium  and a new  “enthusiasm” for  virtual world education  was demonstrated in Palmerston North, New Zealand, last week by the  number of mainstream tertiary educators  who attended five  SLENZ team workshops at  the  annual, national Teaching  and Learning/eFest 2009 conference .

The growing interest in virtual worlds also was demonstrated in an unscheduled,  eFest unconference workshop before the conference proper and the fact that the  eight members of the SLENZ team who attended the conference were constantly pulled aside by attendees, wanting to learn more about virtual world education  or wanting to know how to become actively involved.

It was the third annual mainstream conference at which  the SLENZ Project  has been promoted but  its acceptance was very different from previous outings.

IMG_0843As Lead developer Aaron Griffiths (pictured) (SL: Isa Goodman), of F/Xual Education Services, said, “It was  like a coming of age. At the first two conferences we could only tell them what it  could be like. With this conference we really had something to show them. We could show that education in virtual worlds can work and be both economic and effective.”

The success was such  that a number of educators  attending the workshops and  in private conversations later suggested that the SLENZ Team,  due to complete  the SLENZ Programme  by year end,  should be retained  so that  the  skills learned and honed on the project would not be lost to  the New Zealand education community. The suggestion was even made that the project should be set up on a permanent, collaborative  basis with funding from New Zealand  tertiary institutions who wished to employ the team’s skills in setting up their own virtual education units.

Commenting on this, SLENZ Project  joint co-leader,  Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), of NMIT,  said it made sense for  New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, and particularly its Polytechnics to  co-operate and work collaboratively in virtual worlds, rather than individually. In that way they could make effective, economic  use of the available advice, skills  and lessons already learned as  well as ensuring  that each was not going through the costly exercise of trying to reinvent the wheel, independently.

After the conference, co-leader, Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel), of Blended Solutions, said  that the Project would consider setting up a virtual world roadshow  for those Polytechnic educators and administrators who had expressed  interest in learning more about education in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

The Polytechnic educators at  the four-day conference at UCOL who appeared most interested  in virtual world education for their students included  those involved in  nursing and paramedic training, anatomy and physiology lecturing, foundation (bridging) learning,  trade and industry training and  agriculture, including viticulture,  all areas which the SLENZ team has worked in  or has looked  at working in.IMG_0813

Dr Clare Atkins and Terry Neal .. working effectively in a virtual team.

The SLENZ Project team members who presented at the conference  included, Dr Atkins and Terry Neal; Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), lead educator  for the foundation learning pilot at  Manukau Institute of Technology, and  Oriel Kelly, manager of MIT’s  Learning  Environment Support Technology Centre;  Aaron Griffiths;  and   Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker),  a SLENZ developer  and lecturer at WelTec.

The SLENZ workshops, which will be the subject of a separate posting, looked at, “Working effectively in a virtual team,” “3D as an everyday medium for teaching, ” “MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching in a Multiuser Virtual Environment”, “In-world, meets the real world – the trials and tribulations of bringing Second Life to an ITP, “From  Real World to Virtual: Actualising Virtual World Education.

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 139, September 24, 2009

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

SLENZ members  on  international

virtual world conference  circuit

1. Cochrane at SLaction 2009

valverdeset1_002The Valverde conceptual design … as envisioned in Second Life.

There are two Second Life conferences over  the next few days which will feature  the work of members of the SLENZ Project team, underlining just   what can be achieved both by individuals and team members in a virtual world, even if one’s country is isolated in the real world.Slactions

The presentations also  demonstrate the unique  around-the-world, immersive, day-to-day collaborative nature of  working in virtual  worlds – something that  is seldom achieved in real life without the benefits of  virtual technology.

Today (September 24)   Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) (pictured left), a lecturer in Cybertechnology and Human Computer Interaction at WelTec and a SLENZ Project developer,  will “work” with Dr Isabel Valverde (pictured right),  a performer, interdisciplinary choreographer and researcher originally from Portugal,  to  present “Weathering In / Com Tempo: An Intervention towards Participatory Multi-modal Self-organizing Inter-corporeal” at the SLACTIONS 2009 research conference at the NMC Conference Center, Babbage Amphiteatre, in Second Life ( SL time: 11.30am, Sept 24; NZ time: 6.30 am, Sept 25;  GMT:  6:30pm. Sept 24, 2009 ).Valverde,Isabel

IMG_0503In Weathering In/Com Tempo (WI), a joint paper by Valverde  and Cochrane,  they will detail  their initial concept and interface design work on the dance-technology project that questions reductions of our corporeal intelligence in a hybrid embodied environment, where participants are invited to playfully interact physically and virtually with one another as hybrid-embodied entities.

The  intelligent physical-virtual networked  environment is being designed to act like another player, interacting with the participants through related flow of sensed aspects with the ultimate goal of becoming a  more inclusive, integrated and connected interface for human-environment hybrid living systems.

In  their concept they envisage that the project,  to be staged in an enclosed space, will incorporate a form of  augmented reality (3D motion, haptic and weather data) achieved through  a variety of  hardware  and software means – the five participants will wear clothes that facilitate the capture of motion data and provide haptic feedback –  with the bridging to the physical environment from the virtual environment being through audio and video projection of the virtual space into the physical space and via data transmitted to micro-controller actuated servos embedded in clothing or micro-controller mediated switches that control a smoke machine, fans and sprinklers.

Bridging to the virtual environment will be through live data transmitted from: micro-controller monitored sensors embedded in clothing, weather data and 3D motion capture data, and stereo audio and video streams taken from the physical environment onto SL screens.

In her paper Dr Valverde  expects Weathering In will lead to a) the development of a grammar of personal and relational behavior (through performative and choreographic research in particular site specific space/time frames); b) the development of an electronic Corporeal Network (that senses corporeal data and actuates haptic feedback through the internet into and out of a MUVE/SL); c) the development of performance technologies (through hybrid modes of practice, based on contemporary dance, Movement Therapy forms, Contact  Improvisation, Yoga, and Tai Chi,).

Ultimately, she believes,  the development of the  WI interface prototype “will be the embodiment of a theory of corporeality for the post-human era”.

2. SLENZ at Jokaydia Unconference

Jokayunconf

SLENZ Project lead educator Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), lead developer Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman) and joint co leaders Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) and  Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) will all  feature at the Jokaydia Unconference over the weekend when the two educators lead a virtual tour of their virtual “lecture halls” on  the SLENZ island of Kowhai.

Facilitated in world by Briarmelle Quintessa the   Sunday, September  27 (Aust time 4pm; NZ time: 7pm; SL time: 11pm, Saturday, September 26 ) session on the SLENZ Project will allow  educators and visitors to  see what the Kiwis are doing on the island of Kowhai where two projects for students (midwifery and foundation or bridging education) are currently being run. Participants will be able to meet and speak with members of the  SLENZ team involved in both pilots.

Jokaydia Support will be provided by by one of Second Life’s best known educators, Jokay Wollongong herself.

But that’s not all there will be at the Jokaydia  annual Unconference which starts tomorrow, September 25, and has been designed to  to celebrate the year’s discoveries and achievements and welcome Second Life residents both old and new to share their work in workshops, presentations, panels or discussions.

It  is worthwhile looking through the schedule and planning on at least taking in one or two  sessions on Jokaydia or at other venues both in Real Life and Second Life. There will be valuable lessons in all of them.

The unconference is designed for educators, academics, researchers, policy makers, curriculum designers,  IT industry,  digital media developers, students and anyone interested in diverse views and approaches to learning and teaching to build and strengthen their personal learning networks through shared interests.

Meanwhile midwifery pilot lead educator  Sarah Stewart and Otago Polytechnic’s principle midwifery lecturer  Dr Deborah Davis are to present a paper entitled “Using a Virtual Birthing Unit to teach students about normal birth” at the  Australian College of Midwives 16th national conference in Adelaide tomorrow.

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).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.