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.

The SLENZ Update – No 94, June 2, 2009

Yes Mildred, MUVEs do pay their way …

Another take  on  the  real value

of immersive technologies


Just what is the business value or ROI (Return on Investment) of using immersive technologies in the marketplace?

It’s not a question that would immediately spring to the mind of most educators and academics  but the answer to it will determine just how great the success or otherwise of the  burgeoning  virtual world environment  will be and  whether it is a flash in the pan like Videotex and Betamax  video cassette recorders  or a platform for the future.

Two highly skilled credible researchers in the immersive field, Erica (right) and Sam Driver (lower right), of ThinkBalm, have just endeavoured to answer the question in a survey of  66 organisations, including Microsoft, IBM, BP, BAE,  and government and non-government organisations, focusing on the value to businesses of adopting immersive internet technologies or virtual world environments.

Their detailed 36-page report, ‘Immersive Internet Business Value Study 2009’,  should give heart to promoters of the value of immersive worlds – although the critics will again be dismissive. It is available here for free download.DriverErica

They point out, however, that not everyone who’s been implementing immersive technology in the workplace can — or even expects to — quantify the business value of the investments they’ve made so far.

But, that  said, various data points collected via survey and interviews indicated that investments in immersive technologies in the workplace are yielding value.

“As just one example, BP expects to deliver tens of millions USD in business value from its investments in immersive technology,” they said. “The company has already recouped the cost of many of the Immersive Internet investments it made in 2008 and 1Q 2009, according to Brian Ralphs, a director in the IT chief technology office.”

They found that more than 40 percent of those surveyed (26 of 66) saw a positive total economic benefit from investments in immersive technologies in 2008 and first quarter 2009, and more than 50 percent of respondents (34 of 65) expected to obtain a positive total economic benefit in 2009.

“Quantification of this value was all over the map, ranging from less than US$10,000 to more than US$1 million,” they said. “The number of respondents who expect to obtain economic benefit of US$25,000  or more in 2009 is more than double the number who indicated they achieved this level for 2008 / 1Q 2009. “

On the other side of the coin they found though that many who had been implementing immersive technology in the workplace did not expect to achieve a return on their investment.

Other key findings included:

  • 94 percent of those surveyed reported some level of success  (” or feels like a success”).
  • 74 percent said they would or might expand their investment this year or next while almost  30 percent of survey respondents (19 of 66) said their organisation recouped their investment in immersive technologies in less than nine months.
  • Learning/training (80 percent, 53 of 66) and meetings (76 percent or 50 of 66) were the most prevalent uses.
  • The top motivation for preferring immersive technology over alternatives were enabling people in disparate locations to spend time together, increased innovation, and cost savings or avoidance of costs.DriverSam
  • Biggest benefit – enabling people in disparate locations to spend time together, followed by opportunity to show innovation and cost saving
  • Immersive technology won out over a variety of alternatives primarily due to low cost and the increased engagement it delivered. The level of engagement meant that “Immersive meetings are more like real meetings than they are like web conferences”.  The leading alternatives were Web conferencing and in-person meetings, followed by phone calls.
  • Work-related use of the Immersive Internet is in the early adopter phase. Before it can pass into the early majority phase, practitioners and the technology vendors who serve them must “cross the chasm.” The most common barriers to adoption are target users having inadequate hardware, corporate security restrictions, and getting users interested in the technology.

Erica Driver, a co-founder and principal at ThinkBalm,  is a leading US industry analyst and consultant with 15 years of experience in the IT sector. She is quoted in mainstream and industry trade press including the Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CIO, and Computerworld. The other co-founder, Sam Driver, is an inventor and entrepreneur whose take on the Immersive Internet is heavily influenced by science, game theory, and science fiction. At the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he was part of a team that discovered RNA interference (RNAi) which was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He founded Qik Technology to develop intellectual property (IP) holdings in functional genomics as well as Evil Minions Games, an IP and product development company.

The SLENZ Update – No 61, March 29, 2009

How do teachers see education benefits?


Vimani Gamage … trying to find why teachers ‘like’  or ‘don’t like’ MUVEs.

Masters student in business studies at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand-Aotearoa, Vimani Gamage (SL: Emerly Alter),  has  set herself  the difficult task of establishing  what factors influence teacher acceptance of  multi user virtual environments (MUVEs).

Briefing members of the SLENZ Project team last week she said that she was seeking to establish for her thesis how the known determinants of Technology Acceptance (according to existing TAM-related research) influence the intention of educators to use MUVEs to conduct virtual classes and how educators perceived the potential benefits of educational use of MUVEs as claimed in the literature.

Gamage is using a virtual classroom on Jokayadia within Second Life for her study which will involve the use of a questionaire to explore teacher perceptions.

Although not wanting to compromise  the results of her research in anyway,  I personally believe  the greatest  influence on  teacher perception of the benefits of MUVEs is directly related, initially, to the informal linkages the teachers  form  and the networking they do  on MUVEs like Second Life when they first enter, perhaps to play.

For  early adopters and subsequent promoters of the benefits of MUVEs  for education, I believe,  the major initial influence is “other people” within the world and the virtual society  they become attached/addicted to.

For those teachers who  “only work” in virtual worlds, MUVEs can apparently be a very boring place indeed. One sees them nitpicking on the SLED list and other lists, complaining about the technology or lack thereof, or being  pedantic  about educational theory.

They sometimes forget that MUVEs are fun and should be fun … that is the easiest way to learn … something the earliest adopters discovered and why many of them are still there.

When I consider some of the “reluctant” educators I meet in Second Life I am reminded of a great quote  from the Wizard of “Watchmen” – Alan Moore:  ” All too often education actually acts as a form of aversion therapy, that what we’re really teaching our children is to associate learning with work and to associate work with drudgery so that the remainder of their lives they will possibly never go near a book because they associate books with learning, learning with work and work with drudgery.

“Whereas after a hard day’s toil, instead of relaxing with a book they’ll be much more likely to sit down in front of an undemanding soap opera because this is obviously teaching them nothing, so it is not learning, so it is not work, it is not drudgery, so it must be pleasure. And I think that that is the kind of circuitry that we tend to have imprinted on us because of the education process.”

My great hope is that MUVEs are never viewed like that – by educators or students.


Vimani’s classroom is worth visiting for the range of educational tools she uses.