Yesterday, my colleagues Inge Qunhua, Heilyn Abbot, and I were ready to kick-off the first in-world session in the UNA-AAU course. As part of the course, we have designed for two kick-off sessions in SL, before Heilyn and I go to Costa Rica and start the course with a 2-day f2f-workshop at the Universidad Nacional. As far as, we had understood it, our two Costa Rican colleagues, Ena & Wica did a f2f-session with the course participants last week where they created the SL-accounts and settled possible technical challenges. Therefore, the main purpose of the in-world kick-off session was to socialize (make friends, and join our group) and to familiarize the participants with the sandbox and the island where the majority of the course activities will take place. However, another important reason to have sessions before we go to Costa Rica, was to see how the participants would manage to get into/and navigate in SL from a technical point of view – how would the participants’ user experience turn out? In planning the course, we have been discussing the technical challenges that may occur, and we have been somewhat worried about this aspect – and sadly, we did experience many technical difficulties in yesterday’s session.
The first participant to turn up in the sandbox was our Costa Rican co-facilitator, Ena. However, as the picture below illustrates, Ena’s avatar did not rezz well, and in the text chat she managed to tell us that everything looked grey, and that she had no voice/audio.
Technical difficulties in SL can occur for a variety of reasons one of which can be incorrect settings (e.g. for audio and graphics), so Inge quickly decided to put up a board explaining how to set the audio settings properly.
However, as Ena also had problem with an unrezzed (grey) environment, she couldn’t see this properly, so Inge ended up calling her on Skype. Meanwhile, Heilyn and I were waiting for more participants to arrive, but we soon realized that most of them apparently experienced technical difficulties. Two more participants did show, and we all got into a Skype call, and even though advice on how to set audio and graphics correctly helped the participants a bit, we did not manage to settle all the technical difficulties, and finally decided to cut the session short.
Our next kick-off session is planned for next week, and before then we hope to settle the technical problems, but we have also started to discuss alternative plans; a) we use Skype instead of the built-in SL-voice (and hope the problems with graphics can be solved locally), b) we use an alternative viewer (for some users this does seem to help in terms of graphics). None of these solutions are perfect, and if the problems stem from insufficient bandwidth, I’m not sure how we will solve it. This UNA-AAU course is envisioned as a pilot-project where the main goal is to investigate if it will be possible to run bilateral courses between Aalborg University and Universidad Nacional through SL and Moodle in the future, and so we are already gaining important information about some of the possible challenges. I’m confident that we will solve the problems somehow, but I also can’t wait to actually go to Costa Rica to experience the challenges first-hand – some problems can simply be to difficult to solve on a distance …