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Funded by the Eduserv Foundation.
Four so far:
- June 2007
- September 2007
- May 2008
- October 2008
Strictly covering UK university and college activities
Started off being solely about Second Life use.
Lately moving into Second Life and other worlds.
Getting unwieldy; format may need to change.
Number of users, institutions
First snapshot survey (June 2007) found 41 instances
of Second Life use in UK HE/FE.
By May 2008, some form of Second Life activity
detected in 75%+ of UK universities.
In many cases, multiple Second Life activities in the
Lots more funding (now)
Originally, most development work self-funded i.e. in own
time of academic.
Now there are multiple sources. Last snapshot:
Internal i.e. from Pro-Vice Chancellor, centrally, or
“Hardcore research” funders e.g. Leverhulme Trust.
JISC (funds several projects).
HEA, AHRC, BECTA etc.
Teaching and learning in SL
Number of instances increasing.
Class sizes vary up to thirty.
Usually heavily participatory in terms of
Most students reported as taking to it; a few have
problems with the concept.
Not everyone is evaluating effectiveness.
No predominant method of measuring this.
Academics report less negative responses of late from:
Peers (other lecturers and researchers).
This is due to:
More people knowing about Second Life.
2nd year of teaching and learning use (no longer a
Anything that brings in research money into an
institution becomes more popular there :-)
No dominant reason for SL activity
Building a representation of the university (a cause of
contention with some).
Researching the use of virtual worlds in education.
Marketing the university, and income generation
Remote teaching (one to many).
Remote supervision of PhD students.
Student design and development skills acquisition.
Roleplay for practical, social, medical skills.
Hardcore of sceptics
Always have been with us ...
... and probably always will be with us.
Open-minded sceptics (academic approach: “Convince
me”) are useful; challenges users of virtual worlds for
Closed-minded sceptics add nothing to academic
debate; often sceptical for seemingly personal reasons.
“Some people are bizarrely hostile to it, for no particularly
FE (Further Education) colleges
Almost total absence in all snapshots.
Searches, list requests, contacts indicate little activity,
either public or 'under the surface'.
(Unless FE colleges are much more secretive than HE
A small number of (enduring) exceptions:
- Myersclough College (Forestry course promotion).
- Bromley College (Computer Science promotion).
The two great “needs”
... and ...
Lesser mentioned in October 2008
Three or less mentions each:
More mentioned in October 2008
Eight or more mentions each:
Offers more control, privacy, than Second Life.
“SL and OpenSim have quite a lead, providing a toolkit
rather than an end product.”
“OpenSim does interest us, especially with regard to
being able to close access for particular activities, the
potential to bulk manage accounts and the opportunity
to track activity for learning mapping.”
High profile and easy to use, so many people have tried
Felt to be 'superficial' for teaching and learning needs.
“Google’s new virtual world was disappointing and didn’t
seem to get the idea of open access community.”
“The big drawback, especially for educators, was the lack,
at least at the moment, of the ability to create your
“Wonderland was particularly interesting as it allowed
groups of people to dynamically edit the same
The quality of spatial sound was also appealing, and the
fact that the platform is Java based and would allow for
The needs of academic developers
They all say funding, so ignoring that they've also said:
A toolkit of ready-made high quality stuff for SL.
“SL on a stick” to circumvent problems with group and
university lab work restrictions.
Guides aimed at academics e.g. how to successfully run
a tutorial or workshop in Second Life.
But – what are their other needs? Do they know?
Disappearing early adopters
Some UK Second Life academic developers from the early
days i.e. 2006 and 2007(!) aren't doing this any more.
Funding has finished?
Development skills have moved elsewhere?
Fed up of lack of peer support / working in isolation?
It didn't work out...?
IPR and related issues
Several islands claim to represent one university.
An academic develops content for his research / course
at home, then 'takes it' with him or her when he moves
to a new university.
Students do design work on their university island –
who 'owns' it?
The Vice Chancellor goes for a wander around his
institutional island, and is 'mugged' by students.
A learning or education feature, developed by an
academic at cost to the institution, is 'copied' or
replicated by an academic at another institution.
Many universities are doing exactly the same thing:
investigating, from scratch, whether Second Life is
useful for teaching and learning.
Peer-review “lag” particularly bad with virtual worlds
due to rapid developments. Plenty of research going on,
and has happened; the mound of (public) findings so
Contact and peer networks being thin.
The “You don't get it till you've tried it” nature of SL.
Effect on university technical
What happens if/when teaching and other educational
activities in virtual worlds become widespread?
More higher specified machines (and graphics cards) in
More labs? Or can wireless campus network cope with
mass use of SL on laptops?
Voice: making a noise wherever the participants are.
“In it for the long-haul”
Second Life currently predominant ... but may not be in
Virtual Worlds in education will take years, possibly
many, to be refined.
“We will clearly continue to explore virtual worlds –
however, it is not clear that Second Life world is the
“Increasingly used but not mainstream for several years.”
“I don’t think it will go away this time, simply because of
the enormous investment. We will also see diminished
boundaries with the 2D web that will bring virtual
worlds into the mainstream.”
Virtual World Watch
Currently one year (Oct 15th 2008 to Oct 14th 2009).
Activities funded by the Eduserv Foundation:
Continuation of the snapshot series, but with focus
moving more towards 'many worlds'. Four more
Identifying the directions and predominant themes in
the emerging Second Life and virtual worlds research
An independent comparison of Second Life to other
virtual worlds, for teaching and learning purposes.
Other stuff we find interesting :-)
Follow Virtual World Watch...
Are you a UK academic doing “stuff” in virtual worlds?
Submit your blog to the blogroll.
Fill in the next snapshot survey questionnaire.
Contribute a few screendumps to the Flickr picture pool.
Thanks – and that also helps you publicise your work.