Bringing educators and students into Second Life: Design of socialisation and skills development activities

Minocha, Shailey and Reeves, Ahmad (2009). Bringing educators and students into Second Life: Design of socialisation and skills development activities. In: The 4th and FINAL Open CETL Conference, The CETLs: Celebrating Teaching and Learning, 15-16 Dec 2009, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.


A 3D virtual world, also called synthetic world, is a synchronous, persistent multi-user virtual environment, facilitated by networked computers, in which people, represented as avatars, experience others as being present in the same environment, or 'being there together' even though they are geographically distributed. In 3D virtual worlds users synchronously interact in 3D spaces via avatars, their graphical self-representations, and converse in real-time through gestures, and audio- and text-based (chat and instant messaging) communication.
Second Life is the most popular 3D virtual world in the education domain and is increasingly being used at the Open University (OU) in the UK and other institutions all over the world. Seminars, small-group tutorials, conferences, art and design workshops, role-play activities, and meetings are some of the educational activities that are being carried out in Second Life.

Over the last eighteen months, our experiences of bringing in students and educators into Second Life (SL) have shown that there are four specific issues related to socialisation and skills development: (a) educators and students require training (via user guides and hands-on sessions) to use the SL software; (b) it is important that students gain communication and group-working skills for interacting with fellow-students and educators during educational events such as seminars and tutorials; this involves learning to use the group communication features of SL and to become acquainted with the etiquette and norms of SL; (c) educators require awareness of and training to use the various educational tools and functionalities within SL such as the Power Point presenter, note-card giver, survey tools, and so on; and (d) educators need guidance for designing and conducting course-related learning activities within SL.

We have designed and conducted SL socialisation and training activities that have enabled us to implicitly facilitate the SL skills development of educators and students. In this poster we will present the different phases of students' and educators' skills development for interacting with SL software and within the SL environment. For each of the phases, we will present scenarios from our experiences on two OU courses over two presentations indicating what has worked well during our induction and training sessions, and the obstacles that we have faced.

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