Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Educause Review - Sept/Oct 2008 Virtual Worlds - Must Read For Those In Higher Education

I've barely finished reading half of this Educause Review volume, but felt I had to post something here to get this out there.

If you work in higher education, whether you're staff, faculty or administrator - it's important that you read the articles in this volume. It's important for the present and the future of higher education.

I regularly run into people in higher ed who have not heard of the phrase "virtual worlds." I just don't think we can afford to not know any longer. In the past I've considered what others in higher ed have said to me about how Second Life is not for everyone. And it may not be. But the fact is, virtual worlds will be an important part of the future of higher education.

My university and many others regularly talk about how we need to engage students in the teaching and learning process. Virtual worlds are an excellent tool for this purpose.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Virtual Worlds and the Future of Business Education

I attended an informative 3.5 hr conference yesterday in Second Life (SL) titled "Virtual Worlds and the Future of Business Education." I was curious because I've been seeing more signs on campuses in SL lately for MBA programs. Here's the link - it was a very good conference, well worth my time (day off). The speakers were excellent and the backchat and tweets were valuable too. There were 80 inworld avatars attending and the conference was also streamed live on the 2D web.

Pathfinder Linden (of Linden Labs, the company behind SL) even answered a question I asked on when SL will allow for shared applications (it's coming!). As a librarian this would increase the usefulness of using SL with students. Not all educators see why this request is important but for librarians it can matter as we demonstrate to students how to use specific databases. If you are a prof who is using SL to teach students it probably wouldn't be important as SL already allows for collaborative work using Google docs inworld.

A couple of points that stood out for me were by Anne Massey, Dean's Research Professor and Professor of IS at Kelley. One was on the hype cycle and where SL is now and if you click the snapshots here to enlarge you will see the chart. I recently read an article on this, which came to the same conclusion. The other point was on the seven sensibilities of SL. Things that all who spend time in SL understand, but which can be difficult to explain to those who have not experienced SL much themselves. Briefly the 7 sensibilities in which she referred - sense of self, death of distance, power of presence, sense of space, capability to co-create, pervasiveness of practice and enrichment of experience.

Another point made by Anne Massey and Sarah Robbins (aka Intellagirl) had to do with how the usefulness of SL is what's going to drive adoption and what will get people over the ease of use hump. That really resonated with me as in my early days of SL my realization of how powerful of a tool this virtual world could be, especially for higher education, was what kept me going at times. And of course the usefulness of SL is growing almost daily. This is partly due to the innovative work being done in SL by very creative and talented educators and technologists.

Of course there was specific focus on business education here, though I found most of what was shared would be applicable to many disciplines. One reason I heard that business education makes sense in SL is because of the need to connect globally and the ease in which people can do that in virtual worlds. Also businesses are finally figuring out how to use virtual worlds. Here's a link to a 2008 O'Reilly Radar Report titled "Virtual Wordls: A Business Guide" for those who are interested.

Bottom line, Second Life and other virtual worlds are here to stay. Forward thinking universities and colleges who understand this will reap the benefits of being early adopters of these platforms. Especially institutions that are struggling with tight budgets, this a way to benefit greatly for minimal cost.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Second Life Education Community Conference - SLEDcc 2008 - Friday, Sept 5 Highlights

I attended as much as I could of the SLEDcc 2008 conference in Second Life (SL) this past weekend. I'm still processing what I learned, how I was impacted, and finding it difficult in some ways to put into words. Mainly I'm afraid I won't do justice to some of what I want to share. I'll try to give a brief acct. of the highlights for each day on what I was able to attend, and I'll write a separate post on one session that had an emotional impact on me. I'll post once for each day.

Friday - Due to my work schedule, I was only able to attend two events this day - First, the opening session: Education in Second Life with presenters Claudia Linden and Pathfinder Linden, the two main Lindens (from Linden Labs (LL), an American company and creator of Second Life) who are assigned to education/educators in SL.

The opening session keynote was streamed to three locations inworld. And the streaming video did not work - huge disappointment and rough start to the conference, which had me more than a little worried about how things would play out the rest of the weekend. We were quickly provided with Ustream and Veodia channels to watch the keynote live on the web. But of course, those of us who spend time in SL all know that that is not the same as being with a group of avatars in SL watching streaming video all together. Having said that, the content was there - Folks from around the globe heard that LL very much desires to work with educators, to do whatever they can to make SL a place where schools, colleges and unviersities can truly thrive. Both presenters assured us that LL is committed to listening to our concerns, prioritizing them based on our most pressing needs, and doing all they can to make SL an excellent teaching and learning environment. They also flattered us - pointing out that much of the most creative and innovative work taking place in SL is being done by the education community. I know this to be true.

The second presentation I attended Friday was by Sheila Webber aka SL Sheila Yoshikawa. Sheila is a faculty member from the Univ of Sheffield and someone I have been getting to know in SL and admire. She is an expert on information literacy, is widely published, blogs regularly here and here, and has created a beautiful island in SL filled with valuable resources, which she willingly shares with all. On top of that she offers discussions open to all almost weekly on her island, which I greatly benefit from professionally. Here is a link to Sheila's slides from her SLEDcc 2008 presentation, which she uploaded for us to slideshare. Her presentation was excellent and her research is always interesting so take a look.

Tomorrow I'll blog on the poster session I presented at the conference as part of the "Best Practices in Education" session held for three hours Saturday morning.

Here is a link to the wiki page for this conference, which now includes links to photos and volunteer videos of some of the RL sessions. I am hoping that someone was assigned to create a machinima of some of the inworld events, I'll keep an eye on YouTube for that.