1.8: I am an enthusiastic supporter of avatar-based virtual worlds (such as Second Life and the open-source OpenSim platforms) as shared collaborative spaces and they work well in a lot of educational contexts… and have used them for class meeting and discussion spaces, for seminars, rain storming sessions, etc.
These spaces can be set up so there are many separate isolated spaces, and can even allow student subgroups, say those speaking a specific language or those from some specific region to have their own space with isolated text chat and voice facilities. These can be themed to be fun spaces for those who like that.. say a coffee area, campfire setting, a beach with a lovely sunset view, or perhaps out on a yacht in the bay.
Students can hang out in these spaces, drop in, etc. the sense of presence and ways to share information can increase (see Tate et al., 2014). Some may find the abstraction of an avatar odd, especially at first and if they have not been used to playing with a character in online and computer games. But this level of abstraction and spatial separation can also be of benefit especially in some cultures that may not support some forms of social interaction.
1.9: Too many folks who have not used online platforms and been involved in collaborative community orientated courses and activities think online is a poor alternative to “face-to-face” teaching. They assume sole learners in isolated contexts working alone with lists of videos, some even simply recorded from the back of lecture theatres! This is FAR from my own experiences. I believe online community orientated learning in a mix of synchronous activities and asynchronous study is a preferable alternative to typical lecture theatre and group tutorial style activities which suit some but not all learners.
1.10: See above… and why not have a virtual worlds “Edinburgh” location to anchor the experience of “being at Edinburgh” for our students… see Virtual University of Edinburgh.
1.11: Blogging… and here we are… the end of week one. I am already a blogger and often use blog posts to bring together resources, links I want to recall later, notes, screenshots of software and tools I try, hints to help use those tools, etc.
My reflection on the week is that I have no sense at all yet of the other people involved… beyond a few scattered entries I have seen on the Padlet activities in week one, many of which give me no idea of who is I the community, what their interests are, or even the size of the community. The discussion forums and commented upon there is so busy I have not (yet) got a sense of how to use it wisely or quickly catch up. I think having a large number of threads and topics is unhelpful in this respect. We have found that also when using Discord for some online communities too. Some people have just a few threads that people can see and catch up with or skip. Other Discord communities have massive numbers of super fine topics and its too much to get an overview of what is happening.
Blackboard Collaborate Drop In Session
On 1-May-2020, the first of a planned weekly “drop in” teleconference session took place in Blackboard Collaborate. I used Firefox on Windows 10 to run this, as I have previously found that Internet Explorer and Internet edge have issues accessing my microphone.
2.x Peek Ahead
I see that week 2 and 3 materials are already in place. I am not sure if that is a good idea and would like to see discussion on the value or otherwise of this. It means some students may be racing ahead and commenting on forums, etc out of sync with others in the community. I appreciate e want a high degree of asynchrony to accommodate individual participants time and availability… and its good to have catch up periods to get the community in sync at certain points. When the course description said there would be 4 weeks of study over 7 weeks, that is what I thought might happen.
Tate, A., Hansberger, J.T., Potter, S. and Wickler, G. (2014) Virtual Collaboration Spaces: Bringing Presence to Distributed Collaboration, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, Assembled Issue 2014, Volume 7, Number 2, May 2014. [PDF Format]
I am returning to opening this blog publicly for the moment, please note that if anyone wishes to add comments.
Interesting points here. I agree that the discussion board is a bit overwhelming, but I wonder if you’d like to share some of your ideas about avatar-based virtual worlds there? I think that’s something other teachers might be interested in using, or at least be aware of.
Your other points about not getting a sense of community are also valuable. Any thoughts on how to use these insights in your own teaching? How can we make online teaching spaces more inclusive?
Thanks Markus. I will try to make some remarks about use of virtual worlds and sense of community in online groups. As a quick immediate pointer, here is a blog post on Virtual Worlds Technology in use across the University of Edinburgh, written for a Head of School who asked me to summarise this…
Thank you for the link Austin. Interesting stuff!