The May eLATED event was another huge success! In this event Doug Dyson, the founder of Serious Worlds, presented a lively and informative presentation about Second Life. In this fascinating session participants learned about the features of Second Life as well as tips on how to ensure a great learning experience for your class.
The slow assent of Innovative Technologies
Like many new and innovative technologies Second Life has taken a while to catch on. Doug began his presentation with a few famous quotes:
“Radio has no future.”
Lord Kelvin, President of Royal Society
“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.”
Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Ken Olson, president, chairman & founder of Digital Equipment Corp.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office (1899)
What are Virtual Worlds?
Doug introduced the concept of virtual worlds by bringing us back to the movie the Matrix. For many of us this was our first exposure to the idea of a virtual world. In this movie the virtual world was called a construct. The world provided (constructed) everything you required – clothing, real estate, other people to interact, even food and water! The idea behind Second Life is very similar and shares the same appeal as the Matrix environment by creating a replication of our own reality.
What is an avatar?
Doug reminded us that the virtual reality created by Second Life is nothing without the avatars that inhabit it. An avatar is a personal representation, a digital representation of your self. Avatars are one of the most important features in Second Life because they allow you to participate and experience the virtual world. They allow you to create and customize who you are, what you look like and of course allow you to participate in the interactions that make Second Life so unique.
How can you use Virtual Worlds?
Doug divided Second Life into 4 quadrants
Quadrant 1: The Real World
This environment replicates the real world environment. It looks the same as a real world location and functions almost the same as the real world. It’s also referred to as a “mirror world”.
Quadrant 2: Extensions of real life
In this environment what you experience in Second Life is similar to the real world but better! Here you can suspend you real persona, assume a different identify, change your look, try things you wouldn’t try in real life. This quadrant is also referred to as an “augmented reality”.
Quadrant 3: Environments and Process
In this environment you can create environments and processes not available in real life. For example, interact and of exploring the inside a photocopier. This quadrant is also referred to “new worlds.
Quadrant 4 – Suspension of real life
You can use Second Life to suspend reality and cerate a world or experiences not available in real life. This quadrant is also referred to as “immersion”.
Virtual worlds and the communication spectrum
From a communication perspective, Doug believes that while virtual worlds are not quite the same as real worlds, but certainly come closer then other electronic communication technologies. Doug used the following chart to graph synchronicity and richness.
Designing a Learning Experience in Second Life
Doug outlined four components important for a successful learning experience in Second Life.
Instructional Design – This is similar to traditional learning design. Identify your learning objectives and develop your learning around these objectives.
Environmental Performance – Pay close attention to your design strategies when developing a virtual environment. For example some environments can take longer to render (appear on the screen) like how long it takes to load. Doug suggests you pay close attention to your design strategy. For example he says that by using a simple texture, and then only 3 or 4 textures throughout, you can greatly reduce the amount of time and it will take less time to load your environment. The more textures there are, the more complicate the environment and the longer it will take to load and render. His tip! Lift the building off the land. It takes much less time for your site to display on the screen! This increases display time (frames per second).
Social Interaction - Avatar interactions are important! If there are no other people in Second Life then the learning experience is not nearly as rich. Adding other people makes it fun and interactive.
How do you get started in Second Life?
Doug recommends that you provide all new participants with a custom orientation. Things that he likes to include in his orientation to new clients include the following.
- Walk around
- Teach them how to text
- Learn how to sit down
- Learn how to gestures: give a hug, smile, wave
- Greet the students
- Ask participants to sit down
- Conduct a roll call using voice chat
- Distribute note cards in Second Life like you would distribute handouts
- Mix things up a bit by getting them to stand up, move around just like you would in a real class
- Encourage communication through text chat. Note you can record text history. This allows you to record a text conversation so you can review it later or distribute it as class notes.
- As a presenter you can move back and get a wide screen view of your class.
- You can zoom in, move the camera, and see the view
- You can receive objects! A fun thing to include in your class is virtual cup of coffee during your class break.
Voice is very powerful component in Second Life. Although as a facilitator it’s important to remember that the use of voice headsets is still a new experience for many people. Also, voice can be complicated to set up, especially is you are dealing with many people who are at remote locations as voice needs to be set up and configured on each individual computer.
Question: What type of things should you do in Second Life?
Doug’s answer: Well you can do many different things but just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Or example I can pre assign groups and automatically place participants in their groups. But why? Part of the relationship side of Second Life is letting them interact and for example form their own group.
Question: What’s the recommended class size?
Doug’s answer: I would never recommend you go over 40 especially if you are interacting or engaging, e.g. texting. Performance is also an issue. Too many people will slow Second Life’s performance (how long it takes to draw or render the screen).
Question: Is this space that were in now a standard look. Is this the look the look all client will have for their build? (note: a build means the development of your space of environment in Second Life)
Doug’s answer: No. We do have several different rooms that are standard and stay the same but there are also many areas that can change. We can create many a variety of looks.
Question: Could we have a space designed exactly to our needs
Doug’s answer: Absolutely. The space can be customized to your exact needs. We can go to the work site and take photos and replicate it exactly.
Question: How do you evaluate knowledge transfer in Second Life.
Doug’s answer: This is certainly a tough question. Feedback has been very good. It’s hard to give something concrete but feedback has been very positive.
In closing Doug provided a short list of tips and lessons learned as well as some published results.
- Consider bandwidth and use optimization strategies
- Separate the new user experience from your course (have an orientation separate form the course itself)
- Keep learners involved (interacting) throughout
- Just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you shoud!
- Stuff happens, roll with it!
These are notable measurements – cost savings, improved test scores, improved attendance
- Canadian border services improved test scores by over 28%
- IBM saved $320K by holding a virtual conference instead of a real life conference
- University professors reported best attended classes were in Second Life
- High sense of fun!
At the entire group headed downstairs for a drink and further discussion.
It truly was another fantastic event at the Boiler House in the Distillery for the eLATED community. Thanks to Doug for his wonderful presentation and for their generous sponsorship!
Our next elated event is our July social. We hope to see you there!