Archive for June, 2007
I recently was asked,
When is the use of Second Life just hype (or not)? When will or do educational uses of Second Life get beyond the hype? What value is there in using Second Life besides simply making a marketing splash for the institution or organization?
Certainly, there’s still much buzz surrounding Second Life, and much of it is still hype and, actually, anti-hype. A quick Google Blog Search for “Second Life business hype” reveals volumes of relevant blog entries.
I’ve been giving serious thought to my initial answer which was something similar to . . .
Using Second Life is nothing more than hype if an institution or teacher is using the technology for the sake of using the technology. If Second Life is only being used for learning activities that can be accomplished using other, older technologies with the same or less level of complexity, that’s hype. At that point, the only value for using Second Life is being able to claim “We’re using Second Life.” Educational use of Second Life ceases to be simple hype when there’s true value added benefits of using the technology, when the technology supports a learning activity or approach to instruction that can not be supported by other technologies, when the unique affordances of Second Life are utilized for the benefit of learners and teachers.
Essentially, I think it comes back to the quality issue.
while maintaining proper focus on the desired learning outcomes, develop authentic learning projects that allow learners to engage learning content through interaction with communities and/or creation of content or products in a manner not possible through a physical or standard web-based learning environment.
My goal is for my institution to engage Second Life in a quality manner from the start; while those interested in marketing our institution may enjoy the idea of promoting a campus, if that’s all we do, it’s hype. To avoid the hype, we need to implement quality, unique learning experiences that may only be accomplished through a Second Life-type of technology.
How is your institution using Second Life? Hype or more-than-hype?
All educational professionals currently using Second Life are invited to participate in a survey: Engagement of Second Life by Educational Institutions. The purpose of the survey is to identify and describe the extent to which educational organizations are engaging Second Life at an institutional level.
An increasing number of educators, at all levels of the industry, are using Second Life for instructional purposes, and a tremendous number of institutions reportedly are engaging Second Life. However, no information exists describing the nature and extent of institutional engagement. To what extent are institutions, in which educators are using Second Life, engaging the technology at an organizational level as indicated by: development or revision of policies and guidelines; engagement strategic, organizational planning; commitment of financial and personnel resources; establishment of quality standards; implementation of student and faculty support and training programs, and deployment of an institutional Second Life Campus.
If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Chris Duke at chris (at) muveforward (dot) com or via Second Life as Topher Zwiers.
I rarely cross-post information or simply post an entry pointing to another Blog; I typically mark those articles as shared news, so they appear in that feed. However, I need to make an exception in this case.
Angela Thomas posted a list of resources compiled and posted to the SLED listserv by Ed Lamoureux. I think I’ve mentioned many of these resources before, or at least, I’ve marked them as shared news, so they’ve appeared in the sidebar of this blog. I did simply want to flag that post by Angela and email by Ed as a valuable resource.
At NMC 2007 Summer Conference, Ted Castronova opened the first day of the conference with a keynote on virtual worlds. Two comments during the keynote piqued my interest and prompted to ideas.
- Professor Castronova mentioned the “constrained budget” mechanism for determining avatar skills within virtual worlds, how that creates specialization within the world, and how that leads to sharing and trading of skills, content and services.
- An audience member later asked a question, “Aren’t there aspects of the Real World that we should leave out of the Virtual ones? Why can’t we just leave out the concept of having to pay for things? Instead of having to pay for that sword or car, why can’t we just take it?
The second of two ideas focused on the stability of the Second Life economy in the face of Open Source virtual goods and applications being introduced into the SL market. In First Life, the computer technology and related markets have been established since, at the very least, the early 1980′s. For a great portion of the twenty five plus years since the PC was first introduced, software applications and “virtual” goods were exchanged through a proprietary, capitalistic market. Microsoft, Corel, Apple and other companies were able to establish client relationships and loyal customers within that proprietary framework. Established relationships with and trust of proprietary solutions, I believe, created inertia biased against Open Source solutions; certainly Open Source solutions have gained increasing traction, but there are still many skeptical of solutions for which no one in particular can be held responsible in the event that it “breaks.”
I do not believe the Second Life market has such an established proprietary inertia. There’s no real reason why the traditional economy must exist in Second Life; I believe it simply may be a RL social construct which, in many instances, is unnecessarily being imposed upon SL. The only commodity necessary to create many virtual products is time; of course, time is valuable – particularly the time of a skilled, educated professional. However, there’s no physical products with an inherent value to be purchased in order to manufacture virtual products. Flexi-hair (wig) does not require hair to be collected or artificial hair to be manufactured for the flexi-hair to be created. The time to acquire the skill and knowledge to build the product is the issue.
So, in a virtual world like Second Life, what would happen if one person sets up an open source flexi-hair store? What if one person willingly chose to give away their product? Unlike the physical world, the only commodity being sacrificed is the time it takes to create a “model” – and even that time is much less than it is in the physical world: copy and paste works VERY quickly. PLUS, unlike in the physical world, EVERY one in Second Life can easily acquire a copy; SL residents don’t have to catch a plane or drive a car to the Free Flexi-Hair store, and there’s certainly no shipping cost. How disruptive could ONE open source offering of quality basic products – like clothing, flexi-hair, jewelry, virtual animals, trees and other landscaping items – be to the SL market?
The question, for me, becomes, “How long will it take for the SL economy to shift away from basic products like the ones I just mentioned toward services and products that require greater knowledge and skill sets? ” And, should the education community work to hasten that shift by openly sharing with one another and the SL general populace – a range of quality products that allow us to move past the simpler markets? What would innovators currently selling flexi-hair and quality clothing begin to sell and create if their market disappeared?
While this year’s NMC Conference has a substantial number of sessions focused on Second Life, it is certainly much more than “just” Second Life. Wednesday afternoon, I attended a “Podcast & Webcast – State of the Art” session offered by Victor Edmonds from UC Berkeley. The session was standing room only and offered a number of valuable lessons learned – from UCB and institutions represented in the audience.
I want to first summarize a few general themes discussed during the session, and then I have a thought I took away from the session.
- ADA & Accessibility. Berkeley works with Automatic Sync for closed captioning of webcasts; the closed captioning service is available to learners during the recording (if I heard correctly), and the cost is about the same as hiring a signer for the hearing impaired. Old Dominion (Steven Crawford) has used Dragon Naturally Speaking for initial transcript capture followed by manual editing and cleanup of transcripts. Stanford (reportedly) has hired students to transcript content with some success. University of Texas (Coco Kishi) suggested that closed captioning may not always be the better option; video capture of a signer may be better for some situations and learners. UCB only does closed captioning for courses being attended by a hearing impaired learner; other courses go to the web without closed captioning or transcripts. However, some states (12) reportedly require all content produced by state institutions to be ADA compliant; that number has increased each year over the past several years.
- What do learners use? An informal survey of students by UCB showed that learners use the archives of previous courses a great deal; UCB records each professor’s course each semester. That archive allows learners to review their professor’s lecture on the topic in advance of their class session on the topic or to review a different professor’s lecture on the same topic. UCB learned that live, real-time streams of lectures were not used a great deal; learners come back to the archives if they miss class, but they do not watch a live lecture in lieu of attending class. UCB has discontinued live streamed lectures. Also, MIT found in a study they conducted that learners use the audio/video content more than just audio; although, there wasn’t an explanation of the content of the video during this session (was it a screencast? or, video of the professor at the front of the room?) University of Pennsylania conducted a qualitative survey and found that most learners do not use iPods to access content; they use standard desktop/laptop machines.
- Recording Solutions. UCB has used a combination of Real Player and an internally developed scheduling application; they have been re-evaluating and considered vendors and internal solutions. UCB opted to do neither – instead waiting for Podcast Producer included in the next release of the Mac OS; Professor Edmonds believes Podcast Producer will have a tremendous impact on the pod/web-casting market.
- What about copyrighted content in presentations? UCB does several things to resolve issues with copyrighted content being used during a lecture (which would then be included in the webcast archives of the lecture). First, they control the type of recordings made available; if a professor uses a lot of copyrighted video, they’ll record audio only. Second, if they opt to record the same professor using audio and video, they make it available only via their LMS, not allowing it to be redistributed publicly. Third, they use a workflow that allows a “scrubbing unit” that edits out the copyrighted material before it’s made publicly available; surprisingly, this unit is only one person with part-time student assistants, and their time is not consumed entirely by scrubbing.
- Impact on Learner Outcomes? UCB is currently conducting assessment, but their work to this point has been largely qualitative focused on learner feedback. UCB and Paul Bergen at Harvard both indicated the most frequent feedback from learners focused on the flexibility the classroom recordings provide. Learners use the lectures and believe the flexibility and added study tool are important but don’t specifically suggest that they increased understanding of the course material.
The most important conclusion I drew from the session was that video recording of professors may not be worthwhile; the most optimal solution may be an enhanced podcast or screencast. Most of the institutions producing an extensive number of classroom recordings represented in the room – Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, University of Texas – indicated that they use a videographer to capture video of professors teaching at the front of a room. None are currently using automated video solutions to accomplish that task. I know my institution can not afford to hire even part-time student workers to capture videos of that sort. However, seeing a video of a professor talking at the front of the room and writing on a standard white/chalkboard, I do not believe the investment in recording the talking professor is necessary or valuable. IF the primary use of the video will be for learners to review course content – in advance of or after a class session – a capture of what is being written along with the professor’s voice should be sufficient, and that can be accomplished by using a solution combining screencasting/audio with digital whiteboard technology. That reduces the cost of the solution in the first place and avoids the expense of a videographer. The value of capturing video of the professor, I believe, is dependent upon the need for enhancing or establishing her social presence; that should only be an issue for distance learning courses in which lecture capture will be used as a teaching tool.
I started well after the first day of the conference with a post about Lyr Lobo’s Building in Second Life workshop, but I wasn’t able to maintain the pace ;-) Honestly, the NMC Conference was information overload; every presenter was incredibly engaging, and every topic was timely with new information. The many conversations during breaks, meals, shuttle rides and social events may have offered even more information.
With that said, I’m trying to digest most of the information, and I’m going to do that in this space. There will be several posts unrelated to Second Life (i.e. the Podcasting post which I’ve already posted), but I do believe any educator working in Second Life will also find information on other emerging technologies useful as well. This will be my own personal debriefing of the event, as quickly as I can get the thoughts organized and down “on paper.”
I’d certainly like the opportunity to read any other person debriefings on the NMC 2007 Summer Conference and will be watching for those.
I attended a pre-conference workshop offered by Lyr Lobo (RL: Cynthia Cologne) focused on Building a Project in Second Life. Participants offered an interesting mix of Second Life expertise, and impressively, Lyr’s session appeared to adapt to most users in the room, offering something for everyone. Several of the things I learned:
- editing the color of my selection beam
- NSS Noob Be Gone series of videos; I think I’ve seen these before. Lyr used this one in particular to get the session started. Several more Second Life video tutorials are available here, along with a mix of other topics.
- using copy selection with keep tool selected option in the build menu to center copy and rotate copy
- z-ordering: which object is in front or on top? If two objects overlap, the flickering texture is created by the lack of clarity regarding which object texture takes priority.
- how to build a wall with a window, a 1-prim scripted door, a 1-prim fountain, a 1-prim stool, a 1-prim lamp with shade.
- how to select and modify the texture, color etc of just one face of an object
- Ctl-Alt-D: the debug menu creates two additional menu options. Viewing the world as a wireframe is interesting and can be useful when reviewing script functionality
I learned a great deal more; this is what I managed to note during the session. If you’d like to know specifics regarding any of these ideas, contact me in world @ Topher Zwiers. I’ll share, explain and demo in world as much as I’m able.
After the session, it was back to the hotel to check in and then back to the Conference Center for the opening reception. The opening reception was an incredible opportunity to meet and network with fantastic individuals and educational professionals. Near the close of the reception, there was an informal meetup of SL’ers attending the conference. I had the pleasure to meet, in RL for a change, Lyr Lobo, Fleep Tuque (still amazed at the job she/they did on the SLBEP conference!), GunnyP Mayo, Ann Enigma, Farley Scarborough, Brett Bjornson (briefly), Professor Beliveau, CDB Barkley and others. This is truly an amazing educational community.
If you’re interested in the goings on at the conference as well as the portions of the conference made available to a remote, SL audience, be sure to check out the NMC Campus Observer blog and the Conference wiki. There’s also an NMC Campus Flickr stream. I hope to blog again tomorrow about Day 2, if I’m not melting down from information overload! ;-) Oh, and NMC Summer Conference 2008 is scheduled for June 11-14, 2008 at Princeton University.