Reflections on Week 10 – Presence and Voice

Indications of Presence in Virtual Worlds

The theme of the readings and Second Life sessions this week was to explore the notion of presence, and mechanism for achieve a sense of community and proper interchange leading to menaingful learning in in distance educational contexts. I have liked the earlier IDEL11 readings from Warburton (2009) which provides a table with a rich variety of sync and async communications and presence indication methods, as well as listing some of the issues for usability of virtual worlds like Second Life for education and collaboration.

Darabi et al. (2010) started off by commenting that some types of online learning have been considered deficient in providing the social interaction needed for the construction and development of knowledge. They described experiments to examine various modes of interaction using discussion forums and the like. I was surprised at the basis for these arguments, as I think that much “face-to-face” teaching often exclude many of the learners except perhaps in very small tutorial style classes, which are not by any means common place at all levels of education. I feel that online learning techniques with the rich set of synchronous and asynchronous communications mechanisms can be a facilitator for better communication in a class and account for individual learner styles and preferences as well. These methods might even improve on-campus course interactions if properly integrated with a course.

Voice in Second Life

This week for the first time on IDEL11 we used voice in Second Life. Everyone seemed to get set up and active very quickly, which is not often the case. Technically voice on teleconference systems is one of the biggest issues I come across in distance collaboration, whether for new or experienced users. Voice always seems very natural to me in these teleconference style meetings. I quickly forget my avatar and controlling it and concentrate on the subject and discussion topic to hand. But this could be because I have many years of experience of using a range of teleconference systems with and without video, and with people I know and new communities. Some classmates found the experience odd as it was their first use of voice associated with an avatar, and hearing voice as if from other people’s sometime “fantastical” avatar identities.

Uncanny Pedagogical Experiences – Joking Apart

I have kidded on a bit with Siân Bayne in some discussions over the use of what I treated as "cute" terms like the "uncanny" and "ghostly" or "zombie" experiences.  I got the idea of the uncertain and mind challenging environments she was described as a learning opportunity.  But the Bayne (2008) reading did start to make more sense to me as a coherent approach to some people’s experiences in virtual worlds.  I think I have used teleconference, distance collaboration and other forms of multi-user environments for so long, and have had experience of MUDs and MOOs as they grew from their text beginnings, so that its a more natural experience for me… just like I would not call using the telephone uncanny because I can heard a disembodied voice from a distance.  But I can certainly put myself into an avatar shape or type which I know I find unusual or that feels "wrong".

I found a very nicely constructed site in Second Life this week which allowed for just such an experience, and I blogged about it to draw it to the attention of others on the IDEL11 and EDEDC courses. See "Meta Body – Try an Out of Your Body Experience".

IDEL11 Essay Focus

In the last week, I found I was struggling with the work I have done to date on the IDEL11 essay. I have a lot of observations and links to the literature… and many more items I now want to read back over having thought about things more.  But I like to have a stronger outline or theme in mind when I am working on a paper like this… and I lack that focal point just now.  But I think I might have a suitable hook. 

I had earlier tried to describe some of the collaboration tools needed to support distributed collaboration in some communities I work with, to distill the experience we have with "Web 2.0" style tools for those communities, in a way I could input to the Distance Education Initiative (DEI) as it chooses tools for the University of Edinburgh. If I see the DEI steering group as one focus for what I am trying to relay about VLEs, PLEs and the sorts of collaboration tools needed, and why they differ between institutionally provided elements and personal asset management areas that might focus my thinking.  I am trying that out.


Bayne, Siân (2008) "Uncanny spaces for higher education: teaching and learning in virtual worlds", ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 16, No. 3., pp.197-205.

Darabi, A. et al. (2011) "Cognitive presence in asynchronous online learning: a comparison of four discussion strategies", Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(3): 216-227.

Warbuton, S. (2009) "Second Life in higher education – Assessing the potential for and the barriers to deploying virtual worlds in learning and teaching", British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 414-426.

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