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E-Learn – Las Vegas, Nevada November 2008 Dr. Eileen O’Connor, [email protected] (see companion paper for more info) Updated for fall 2008 class – presented to Graduate Center through Tuesday Morning Live! on 11/4/08

Using SecondLife in Graduate Courses

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Overview of initial considerations when beginning to use Second Life in a teacher education class. Includes recommendations for other faculty interested in considering Second Life or virtual, immersive platforms.

Text of Using SecondLife in Graduate Courses

  • 1. E-Learn Las Vegas, Nevada November 2008 Dr. Eileen OConnor,[email_address] (see companion paper for more info) Updated for fall 2008 class presented to Graduate Center through Tuesday Morning Live! on 11/4/08


  • Review background & need
  • Consider the course development framework & the initial implementation resultswhat lessons were learned
  • Visit summer 2008 class & some of fall 08
  • Generate some guidelines to others venturinginto SL in educational settings
  • Highlight next steps planned for this instructor


  • Teacher preparation and new-teacher support for high-needs schools
  • Program is largely online; these science-education courses are 100% online
  • Cohort building & peer support is a program goal
  • Need to make online environment more real and supportive
  • Need to create an immersive science experience to improve teacher education

4. 5. Development proceeded on several levels iteratively and often simultaneously 6.

  • Temperament and background of instructor:
    • Independent / self starter / early adapter
    • . . . but no prior exposure to gaming or immersive worlds whats the bestway to learn an immersive environment? immerse yourself
    • Learning is time consuming love& document the process
    • Procured support from the institution through a faculty-development grant that involved Linden dollars
    • Lessons learned:
      • Continue with the same but be more open to collaboration & sharing (visiting meetings; listening at events)
      • Spend time in orientation islands (and the like)

7. 8. 9.

  • Earth science teachers would find this location useful lots of simulations here (NOAA sim)


  • Technology
    • Unless your institution has high-powered machines it is best to use your own computer
      • Plus a laptop or home computer lets you work in evening times too
    • The interface is technically free but it takes time to get set up and understand how to work
    • Reminder:these courses are 100% online; the eventual students will work online too
  • Real Estate: it best if your institution can get space; but meet in public locations if necessary

11. These werenotthe focus for this course 12.

  • Starting with familiar students
  • Starting with a small class size
  • Selecting a course where community building could serve as a reasonable course objective
  • Making SL a requirement
    • a preliminary study showed a mandate was necessary for participation
    • planning for a written alternative, if necessary
  • Designing SL into the course objectives and evaluation,but gently so


  • Planning the presentation component of the course into SL
    • The ubiquitous community building program objective was enhanced through these planned meetings
  • Requiring self reports of SL explorations and learning logs (debriefings after meetings)
  • Using SL in their projects (optional)
  • Having a final report on possible K12 uses
  • These components were 25% of the course grade and were evaluated explicitly within the assessment rubrics


  • Planning ahead to gain student support andto ward off possible resistance:
    • Calls to all students before the course
    • Encouraging participation having alternatives if absolute problem with technology
      • Again, the author had worked with these students in earlier courses and expected they would be a willing group
  • Considering safety and escape routes
  • The preparation seemed helpfulultimately, all 7 students participated in SL; even one who had to purchase a new computer and work through dial-up


  • Students were warned about the open nature of SL and the possibility of unwanted approaches
  • Escape routes were suggested
    • Setting home as our island; teleporting there is necessary
    • Reporting any advances
  • Consider any legal requirements in your institutional setting


  • Students had signed onto SL earlier
    • some with the help of our media specialist (through email and in SL) and
    • some through the handout instructions that were emailed
  • The initial meeting was introductory, giving everyone a chance to experience being together
    • 2 students had trouble with computers and met the instructor in her office; the instructor and these students shared the same avatar (Eilock Clavenham)

17. 18. It proved useful to have someless pressured times for community building 19.

  • Overall, the planning for contingencies, problems, and student learning curves served the course well having leeway was important
    • Having the online course materials positing the need for flexibility reinforced the needed tone
    • The informal nature of the first meeting seemed to break the ice for SL expectations
  • Like learning to walk, conducting your first course with SL is something you must do for yourself


  • One student who did not have speech capabilities typed her presentation commentary
  • Everyone had hearing capabilities so students listened to each others presentations

21. Students learned about each others science and K12 project ideas.They shared an understanding and a caring unlikely to be duplicated in the text-based online analog of this experience. 22. Students had really moved beyond a focus on the SL technology to a focus on the ideas being shared 23. When instructors headset failed during a meeting without tech support, students continued with their own discussion.Good lesson for the instructor. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. - Invest time learning SL takes time - Learn social as well as basic skills go to Orientation Island; attend meetings you can learn communication skills without interactions- Document your work take snapshots; make a log Dont expectperfectionin your first SL classes 30. - Determine type of SL experience:community building, virtual / simulations, or sociological deciding what works best for your need - Align SL with instructional & affective objectives integrate into course & assignment - Start small Limit expectations; choose right class; dont do whole class in SL A extensivevirtualexperience requires more development time and expertise (preferably w/ institutional support) 31. - Prepare students in advance call if possible; integrate into syllabus; have handouts - Require time spent in SL before the course require time spent on Orientation Island as part of an assignment - Expect that students can get access to technology but have written alternative assignments on hand - Respect students time, if an online class have students set the meeting time - Alert students to unsavory avatars have escape routes planned too; talk to legal department w/ minors 32. - Get real estate from your institution however, if necessary, have meetings in another island after asking permission- Get good computer consider the times you will be in SL; if evening, get good home machine - Get tech support, if possible but have tech-savvy students help you if necessary Remember, you are modeling experiential learning expect the unexpected 33. - Have expectations for your meetings allow time for introductions and ice-breaker field trips - Document the meetings both you and your students should take snapshots & keep logs - Adapt as needed if you have designed sufficient open-endedness this will be easier- Find easy ways to have students present get inexpensive slide-presentation objects, for instanceEnjoy the process . . . this is a new and exciting territory 34. - Establish if SL helped you meet your objectives remember though you can have broad networking objectives too- Listen to student perspectives assess learning logs & commentaries but students may have different objectives than yours - Evaluate assignments & outcomes determine if assignments are meeting your expectations & rubrics - Locate models of student engagement assessment new models for immersive environments are under development Develop your own assessment tool how do you determine if a face-to-face class is working anyway? 35.

  • Overall, SL pilot was good meetings, interactions, presentations, community building
  • Areas to be added:
    • Teacher-independent tasks among groups w/ snapshot and log documentation
    • Specific task expectations in SL before coming to the class
    • With the help of an instructional designer,creating a science virtual experience


  • Student interaction, caring, commitment and engagement was higher than in most online courses
  • You have to begin somewhere . . .
  • SO JUST DO IT!!!