SLecture 1 – observations from the PBBL course

In the PBBL course we have planned 10 lectures in SL and a number of optional informal meetings. Last night we had the first lecture and in this post I’ll reflect a bit on some of my observations. We have 23 participants from 5 countries and an unknown number of Danish on-campus students enrolled. As one of the requirements to pass the course we have asked the participants to attend a minimum of 5 lectures of their own choice (for the students the requirements are different) – so first of all it was interesting to see how many participants/students would actually show up. I’m using the MystiTool to keep track of this and at a certain point in time I counted 22, incl. my colleagues Heilyn, Thomas and Jacob, but some attendees did unfortunately have technical problems so my estimate is that 17 is the most reliable number.

SLecture1_a
SLecture 1 in session …

Based on my experience from the two other courses I’ve run in SL and our preparation meetings last week, I anticipated some voice and text chat problems, so I had posted the following program and guidelines for in-world communication in our Moodle platform prior to the SLecture and of course had these slides on the CZ presenter:

Program010909

Commnunication010909

My overall impression is that the SLecture went well, not least since those who managed to get voice and text working engaged in eager questioning and commenting on the different topics for this SLecture; BL, PBL and the various course elements. But there were also challenges and some serious technical problems:

·         The voice and chat check lasted 45 min. which was longer than anticipated. I did point out in the beginning of the SLecture that it should be regarded as a test lecture, but I’m still somewhat surprised it took that long. There were, however, completely new faces in this SLecture and there are still some participants struggling with general voice settings, use of headset and unstable Internet connections.
·         There are still a few of the enrolled participants who have not yet joined our in-world COMBLE group, and a few who do not know how to change their Active Title. The course preparation week was optional and I expected people would join the activities based on their own judgments. This is something I would seriously consider revising in a future course …
·         Since none of the participants or us as facilitators are native English speakers we all struggle with the language. It’s the first time I’ve personally run a course in English and I must say I find it very time consuming and challenging.  With 7 open chat windows, lots of new names, and the language barrier I did find it rather difficult to stay 100 % focused on my presentation. But this is just a matter of experience, so I do not worry too much about it. According to the feedback my main points came across reasonably clear.
·         When we sent out the initial materials for the course, I had made a tutorial for creating the SL account, and in this I recommended that they created their first names so that they would be easy to say/write in English. But I don’t think this message came across clear enough. At least there are a few names I find very difficult to say/write. This could also be a cultural thing and for sure my Polish, Estonian, German and Argentinean pronunciation needs work ;-) I also suspect that for some of the participants the fact that I address them by their first avatar names takes some getting used to – most likely many of them do not identify with those names (yet) and some seem surprised when they discover that I’m actually speaking/writing to them. This probably will change in time. In a future course I would try to explain the name issue more detailed, though.
·         It was the first time I used the CZ presenter and it worked fine. Nonetheless, I will try to find some sort of podium to place the laptop on, so that its position is fixed and I can return to it more smoothly without having to adjust its position.
·         In the two previous courses I’ve run in-world I’ve been the only facilitator and I must say I enjoy having my colleagues with me this time. Not only are they able to help and answer some of the questions (that I might miss!) in the chat, but it is also very beneficial to be able to get their immediate feedback on these SLectures afterwards.

tryberg
After the SLecture my colleague, tryberg and I stayed and reflected a bit on the event…

Next SLecture is tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to that, because this has turned out to be a great learning experience :-)

/Mariis

Lessons learned from presenting SL via SL

UNINETT2009

Thursday June 11th  a former MIL student, Cecilie Aurvoll had invited me to present my SL project at the UNINETT 2009 conference in Norway. Unfortunately I was unable to attend IRL, so we decided that I should do my presentation from within SL.

Obviously to make such a presentation you need an on-site mediator who’ll be able to log in-world and interact/communicate so that the audience gets an impression of the real time possibilities and challenges.  It was the second time I presented SL at a conference in this way and even though I think it it’s a good idea, I also think it’s easier said than done – at least I’ve learned a few valuable lessons.

The first time I did this kind of presentation one of my students, who together with the rest of his group had been studying SL for several months and therefore had quite a lot experience with SL and its functionality, acted as mediator. During this session we had an ongoing voice conversation and I knew that I could easily direct/instruct him (e.g. ask him to interact with objects) and just in general ask him to show the audience different things on his screen. The in-world locations we visited were places where the student and I had been before and he instinctively knew where to place his avatar and how to use his camera for the audience to get the best view.  From the feedback we got on this session it was evident that especially the ongoing voice conversation and the interaction between our avatars and in-world objects left the audience with a reasonable impression of SL.

The scenario for the second presentation at the UNINETT conference was somewhat different. The mediator was a local technician whom I didn’t know but only met shortly in-world the day before where he told me that his experience with SL was limited. This is by no means a critique of his work during the session – I actually thought he did very well, but there were some differences compared to the first session.  During the session we were accompanied by Cecilie and one of her friends, and since they both were located in different RL locations I hope we managed to show how SL can be used as an alternative to more conventional meeting tools. However, because I was unsure of the mediators ability to use different functionalities I hardly asked him to do anything, which in hindsight made his interaction (projected to the audience) rather passive. Ideally the session could have been rehearsed in real time beforehand but how often is that realistic? I’d made a manuscript, including landmarks and points to be aware of for both sessions, and for future presentations it probably would be a good idea to share this with the mediator in advance instead of just verbally expressing my intentions.

Another difference was related to the communication. Not entirely certain that I would be able to understand all their Norwegian I’d recommended that they communicated mainly by text, while I used voice. I also thought it would be interesting to show how the voice-text combination usually works very well. Voice presentations with texting audience are common in-world, I’ve attended many such sessions and so far I’ve found it to be both satisfactory and engaging.  I did forget one crucial point though; the difference in perception when you’re immersed respectively nonimmersed. When I watch the recording of the session it strikes me as being pretty boring listening to my avatar talking, while text pops up occasionally on the screen. From the view of the outsider it almost comes across as traditional one-way communication – at least that’s my sentiment and even though I don’t know how the audience perceived it, I would recommend mutual voice in the future.

Despite these challenges I do find this way of presenting SL to be a viable alternative when RL presentation isn’t an option – I still just have a lot to learn ;-)  In fact I think presenting SL via SL often is better than flat 2D presentations, but it depends on the purpose and it is a different story …

/Mariis

BTW; for those who understand Norwegian, Cecilie and her colleague, Kristine Sevik wrote an interesting article on the educational potential of Virtual Worlds for the conference.

Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning

George Siemens & Peter Tittenberger (unfortunately his personal website is currently unavailable)  just released their number 1 version of “Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning”. A wiki, which will continue to be updated is available, but it’s also possible to view it as a pfd-file.

handbook

Siemens & Tittenberger encourage everyone to comment, discuss and react – so enjoy studying it :-)

/Mariis