Blue Skies! Blue Skies! by Matt Poole Director of IT Programs National College
The project: build a campus on a shoestring! Traditional web-based learning is self-paced and can transcend barriers of space and time to bring people together. However, it tends to lack the non-verbal cues and spontaneity that we rely on to convey much our interpersonal message content. Second Life has the ability to fill in some of this missing content in though the use of interactive virtual spaces and avatars that are capable of gestures, facial expressions and voice chat.
To date, over 100 colleges have created campus presences in Second Life. Most of these campuses contain large virtual spaces (some unused), immaculate landscaping and sophisticated architecture. An individual teacher, however, might not know how or where to begin or whether it might be prohibitively expensive.
The main questions to be answered by this project were as follows: 1.What are rental vs. purchase options for a small facility? 2.What subordinate tasks must be accomplished in order to create a facility by a desired deadline? 3.How much would these options cost? 4.What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the medium for educational purposes with adult learners? 5.Were learning outcomes helped or hindered by using Second Life?
Land Ownership A premium account A 512 or 1024 m2 parcel 117 vs 234 “prim limit” Land tiers
Land Ownership (cont’d) • It is also possible to rent. Rentals properties are common and allow you to keep your basic membership and perhaps have increased prim limits. • The disadvantage of renting is that it makes it more complicated to control access and media streaming into your parcel.
What Works and What Doesn’t • Classes ranged from five to eight students and were conducted in the Institute for Interactive Technology virtual classroom building. • The associate degree students were using SL as a hybrid/online component for a traditional classroom session. The grad students were all online, and had never met each other or me in person. • After each session, students completed a brief survey of their impressions of the medium. Results were mixed, generally reflecting computer literacy and whether or not they had technical issues.
Recommendations: • Buy between 1024 m2 and 1536 m2 on the mainland. • If you choose to go with a tower, you will need to build or purchase one. The one used at IIT was an Imperial 512, by the Imperial Foundation. • Another option is to do a search for “mega prims” and to use those to build a basic structure. A 20x20x1 platform with four 20x3.75x1 walls with a grassy texture for the platform and a brick texture for the walls works well as a five-prim floating classroom (on a 1024 or larger parcel).
Recommendations: (cont’d) • Search for “teacher freebies,” “instructor freebies” and most especially “conference goody bag.” • Make some signs to advertise your presence. • Spend some time in-world and explore the educational sims to see what others are doing.
Conclusions: • Set up student accounts ahead of time. • Seminars work well in Second Life. • Voice works best for the speaker, text for the students. • Check student settings beforehand if possible. There are always technical issues. Have a Plan B. • Don’t lecture if you can help it. Give your students a mission or a project and cut them loose. Scavenger hunts work particularly well. • There are many free or low-cost resources for teachers in SL. Spend some time in-world and find ones you like!
References: Au, W. J. (2008). The Making of Second Life : Notes from the New World. New York, Collins. Bugeja, M. (2007) "Second Thoughts About Second Life." Chronicle of Higher Education: Careers, Volume DOI. Carr, P. and G. Pond (2007). The Unofficial Tourists' Guide to Second Life. New York, St. Martin's Griffin. Lamb, G. (2006). "At Colleges: Real Learning in a Virtual World." Percival, S. (2008). Second Life In-World Travel Guide. Indianapolis, Ind., Qua Pub. Rymaszewski, M., Au, W., Wallace, M., Winters, C., Ondrejka, C., and Batstone-Cunningham, B. (2007). Second Life: The Official Guide Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley and Sons. White, B. A. (2008). Second Life : a Guide to Your Virtual World. Indianapolis, Ind., Que Pub.
For more information… Poole, Matthew (2007) "Blue Skies: Education in Second Life," Christian Perspectives in Education: Vol. 1: Iss. 2, Article 4. Available at: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cpe/vol1/iss2/4 http://www.mattpoole.net/blog. Questions?