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Teeslife 2 years of experimentation in Second Life

Kate Boardman August 2010


Introduction to Teeslife Some members of the E-learning Team have been involved in Second Life since the early summer of 2006. Interest was piqued by a session on problem-based learning in 2007 which gave more staff access to Second Life at a workshop. As the spec of our new computers made it possible to begin to develop things, we found academics with ideas who were just waiting for some help and some space to seed those ideas. After a meeting hosted by the Department of Academic Enterprise, CLQE volunteered to champion university-wide Second Life projects on an island of our own. The layout chosen was a rough plan to create some buildings which had a look of Teesside about them and plenty of scope for more that did not. We had initial plans for a factory space and for some of the King Edward Square housing for Health, and an introductory area in a space corresponding to the main University entrance. Although not wishing to replicate the campus, having one or two iconic landmark visuals seemed feasible, so visitors who had seen the real campus would know where they were. A year or so later, a homogenised typical campus plan looked not disimilar. The island has undergone very little new in terms of soft or hard landscaping since, partly due to time constraints and partly to conserve prims. The island has been running now for two academic years and has seen slow but steady growth. Documented here are some of the various projects which are or have been here.


School of Arts and Media

Traditional Art Gallery Summary: With a Fine Arts department which teaches practical skills, Second Life is a perfect platform providing for students a display space which allows multiple exhibitions of student work to be displayed, throughout their course. This prompts much decision-making rehearsal in such areas as logistics, marketing, selection, publishing and design. Instead of one final exhibition, students can have their own version of an e-portfolio which allows them to select everything from which works to display, how to display them, how to advertise the display and even how to launch, greet and create catalogues of the exhibitions. These can develop and change throughout the course, with specific exhibitions required as assessment and freedom to experiment outside of that. Because of the space limitations (or lack thereof) within Second Life, each student can easily have their own gallery and working studio, into which they can invite both their peers and any external visitors they wish into the space.

feedback and feed a creative dynamic which could have a huge impact on a student artist’s self-development and professional skills as they make their way towards a potential future living – key employability learning – in addition to their traditional fine art studies. Development: This was one of the first builds on Teeslife, based on the huge visual potential, and the Gallery contained work by four different artists, staff members from the School of Arts and Media. Despite the huge potential, including being able to change the materials and colour of the actual gallery, none of the staff carried the enthusiasm through into encouraging students to take advantage of it. Project status: There is now a gallery area incorporated into the Venue – the build for a combination of Arts and Media activity, which currently includes a selection of work by the Dean of School. Perhaps with more people seeing it, more might be made of it.

School of Arts and Media

The Stream 2010 SAM students Summary: Art installation by students as part of the MA in Future Arts degree. Development: Two activities took place, a pilot project and a final installation which brought together live performances both in and and the virtual world, projected into an Arts centre in Stockton.

This can even offer the potential to grow a collaborative circle of creative artists who can

Project status: The build was cleared away during July, so it must be complete. No write up or evaluation of the installation has been


received, but it was considered very successful within the School. Second Life does, obviously, provide a huge opportunity for installation art – as a delivery mechanism but also as the medium itself and there is much use of this type inworld. It is possible that this area should be retained for more MA Future Arts students to create similar/new installations in future.

School of Arts and Media

The Venue Ronan Paterson Summary: Summative assessment for the School of Arts & Media Comedy module is a recording of a live stand-up routine. Having seen active comedy clubs in Second Life, it was proposed that a venue for students to rehearse routines would be in many ways more realistic than performing to a mirror. This would also allow for a real audience to attend virtually, building up the confidence of students in their performance style. Development: After identifying some of the key elements of a comedy club, a venue was developed which had the potential to be used for a wider range of activities than simply Comedy. This was because there was other interest from within the School in Second Life and it was hoped to build a venue which could home all the different aspects of arts and media in one space, which may lead to productive collaboration between students. Thus the Venue was born. It includes a spot-lit stage for comedy, with two different layouts of chairs and tables. The stage area can also be used by digital musicians, and the main floor cleared for dancing. There is a catwalk for designers to strut their stuff in bought, accessorised or selfdesigned and created confections. Smaller areas include a DJing room where the student radio is streamed, and a series of art spaces for exhibitions.


School of Arts and Media

Design Displays Ken Newton Summary: Each year, design students go to London and display their collective designs in a space some 6 x 10 feet. Arranging at the event always presents some discussion and occasionally conflict. Being able to try out alternatives and decide in advance of travel how the co-ordinated display will ease the putting up of the stand and provide a more enjoyable experience for the students, but also ensure that the University is most effectively represented by also keeping an eye on the effect of the whole as the sum of its parts or more.

Project status: as noted above, the artists have not been as quick to embrace Second Life as might have been expected, however the Venue offers huge potential for almost all of the streams of SAM to use in a variety of ways. Having a more coherent space is hoped to bring more of the students in voluntarily in the coming year. Discussion has also been held as to collaborating in the space with students at other institutions.

Development: A floor space equivalent to the exhibition area was laid out and the posters for the students brought into Second Life. A rough object representing the physical design example were created to scale, so avatars could walk around and through the exhibit to establish the best foregrounding and presentation of each piece.

Project status: complete, though revisable each year.


School of Computing

The French Café and Market Virginie Jackson Summary: The French Café sought to explore whether students of a language both felt immersed in a virtual world environment and felt that the virtual world environment was conducive to their learning to a point which exceeded learning gains using web-based tuition. Development: Two scenarios were built, a café and a market. These provided similar vocabulary and grammar learning as the BBC French programme which formed the comparator web-based learning experience. Audio excerpts for pronunciation practice were embedded in all items in the market, and short exercises developed for the students to practise selecting the appropriate products in their shopping trip. A tutor was present for a synchronous lesson which took place in the café, at which the students used voice to hold conversation.

Student feedback was very positive from those who took part. Only a couple of students had problems with audio, which were satisfactorily sorted out and the tutor also reported that it was an engaging way to teach, when she had overcome her nervousness. A member of IT support staff was on hand but mostly unneeded. Feedback from the students and discussion of the research questions were written up as an MSc dissertation. Project status: complete.

School of Computing

The Greig Virtual Gallery Maggie Parker Summary: The virtual Greig Gallery was initially envisaged to offer a permanent art space to display numerous student works physically only exhibited for a short period of time; to provide a potentially interesting concept of digital portfolio for the students whose work is on display; to begin an engagement with art and its display in virtual worlds, leading perhaps to


more 3-D art works/virtual installations; finally the potential to offer a refreshing style of advertising for the courses represented by the student work. An LTIF grant was sought and awarded in order to investigate the potential of art exhibition in SL, to create one example exhibition and to explore the requirements of staff to create others, this being delivered as a learning resource. Development: This project was perhaps overdesigned in the first instance, which may be a factor in its lack of success. In order to show Maggie what could be done, an example gallery was constructed, which then took a long time to engender ownership within the project. It would have been possible to let Maggie build her own, but technical restraints at her end and a changing wish list made this difficult. The gallery is a sky gallery, but otherwise fairly realistic. Slightly more way out ways of building would probably be easy now in ways they were not 18 months ago when this project came on stream. Only one student’s work shows, and there are no videos available.

Project status: A presentation took place at the 2009 L&T Conference as dissemination from the LTIF grant. There have been no visits to this build in the last months, so it may be that this project is now complete, with or without evaluation. Institute of Digital Innovation

Digital Champions’ Lounge Steve Thompson Summary: Provision of a meeting space for digital community champions around the region. Aimed at delivering access to materials via weblinks and videos via books on shelves and TV screens as well as a contact mechanism for Steve and a bar area for synchronous meetings.


Development: Steve Thompson’s builds are not done by E@T. Project status: Uncertain. Mention is often made (without any perceivable progress) of acquiring a community island, which would free up Teeslife from both the Champions’ Lounge and the film set which has been residing on a sky platform since December 2009 (was originally requested until Easter 2010).

School of Health and Social Care

Midwifery John Waine Summary: The Midwifery Team were shown a demonstration of both some basic birthing development and some of the birthing activities at projects run at other institutions. The suggestion was that the Virtual Maternity Unit case studies which has been in paper use for a few years could be developed in Second Life to provide the 3D representation – a real Virtual Maternity Unit. This was met with general enthusiasm, and all the team have been introduced to SL on a number of occasions they are not yet frequent visitors. This group are understaffed and display the typical imbalance of time and resource available for development in the face of real ideas and desire for utilising the potential to the benefit of the students. Development: The birthing suite currently comprises two clinic-based rooms, awaiting the new developer in SoHSC web team (currently in advert) to create the content and scenarios for 2010-11. The midwifery team also expressed a wish for one house (at least) in which they would be able to practise engaging in the discursive/analysis activities undertaken by the

community midwives in the Virtual Maternity Unit. A series of typical terraced houses was provided and a larger house offered. Project status: project on hold pending the appointment of a developer into the School of Health & Social Care.


School of Health and Social Care

Sexual Health John Waine Summary: Following initial interest by the midwifery team, changes to some curriculum areas raised awareness in the sexual health staff, who perceived potential for use of virtual worlds in scenarios with their new outreach teaching. Development: In order to show potential, a suite of three rooms was initially created. A treatment room, an information/reception area and a common room for staff. This would allow for activities to be developed in all three aspects – discussion of cases by nursing practitioners, engagement with knowledge construction and how to deal with patients and the opportunity – as with the Virtual Maternity Unit – to provide case-based scenarios to work through in presenting individuals.

Project status: project on hold pending the appointment of a developer into the School of Health & Social Care.

School of Health and Social Care

Inter-Professional Learning Karen Johnson Summary: The School of Health and Social Care instigated a period of Inter-Professional Learning (IPL) in order to ensure students across the School collaborate in ways which will be required of them in professional practice. In the first and second years of a programme, this is achieved by a face-to-face week set aside from the curriculum. In the third year, various competing requirements mean that a single week of face-to-face sessions is not feasible. Thus the suggestion was made that the IPL engagement in the third and final year was held virtually, albeit in a corresponding time frame across the programmes. Development: There are many complex aspects to pulling off this project, most notably the buyin of staff across the School, both to moderate the actual week and to write/create content input in order for the scenarios to be developed in the first place. However, the intellectual input required should not be as taxing as needing to learn how to develop in SL. Whilst the latter needs to be undertaken by someone, it should


not put off dreams being dreamed and ideas being encouraged. Sensibly, the development of this project, having lost its pilot year, has been to engage in written scenario building. The activities are based around chained context scenarios, composed of a strong central narrative with a pre-defined cast of characters. These have been carefully woven to encompass – as naturally as possible – all the relevant nursing, therapy and care teams and a credible handover of required interventions. From this, within the metaphor of a theatre production, a cast list was produced for both the director and the producer to work on, staging and prop requirements were drawn up (for technical producer) and thus the intellectual content – the script writing and scene development – separated for the academic staff to work on.

Project status: scenarios are still being written. Technical development beyond the proof of concept items already created is waiting for the appointment of a developer in the SoHSC.

School of Science and Engineering

Pie testing Liam O’Hare Summary: Second Life was proposed as an appropriate tool for trialling and training in the layout required of a tasting/testing area. Development: Very basic table/seating/hatch area developed for demonstration to corporate visitors. Nothing was taken further. The creation of a central narrative and a family of characters should enable both engagement by staff and students, and some identity with them and empathy for their unfolding case. Whilst characterisation can be highly subjective, these family members have been chosen very carefully for the parts they are to play, and this has helped form their stories.


School of Science and Engineering

School of Science and Engineering

Crime Scene Science

Food Factory investigation

Tim James

Angela Addison

Summary: Three years ago, the E-learning Team undertook a project in Crime Scene Science which aimed to improve students’ exam results by developing their knowledge through a series of diagnostic and topic self-assessed tests, using multimedia and specially-written questions. This project originally proposed a further phase which then developed a virtual crime scene(s) to replicate and develop the scenarios that students can engage with in the Crime Scene House on campus. This could also facilitate more weather-independent provision of some of the practice exercises students undertake in the collection of evidence around campus.

Summary: This project was the first to be built on Teeslife, having begun before the island was purchased. Students in quality standards need to be better prepared when entering real factories to undertake investigations. There is no way to have a working factory replica on campus in real life so a virtual factory was proposed in order to allow students to rehearse procedures in advance of arrival at a visit, whilst immersing them in an environment as realistic as possible – including recalcitrant workers and authentic noise levels.

Development: Only one or two proof of concept items have been built, but the interactivity options being developed elsewhere are being done so with the potential for use here. This is a project for the future which can build on the experience of UEL’s crime house and feed back into the community.

Development: The project comprises three main sections. These are the university-based briefing areas, where students should feel in a familiar environment while they acquire and practise the required knowledge to undertake an investigation.

Then they transfer to a professional office environment where they prepare for their factory visit by requesting and examining data from previous investigations and collecting the equipment and paperwork which they will take with them on the visit.


Finally they arrange to visit the factory where they will inspect a series of different aspects, depending on the scenario given, from storage to production, administration to packing and will be examined themselves on their appropriate dress and behaviour as well as interview various staff members at the factory.

Project status: Initial data has been collected (funded by a Learning & Teaching Innovation Fund grant) on student perception prior to engaging in the activities, and mostly with very positive response. Students have begun to take advantage of virtual office hours offered by their tutor which is helpful toward immersion in the exercise. There is more to be added into this project in order to make the basic build not simply interactive but a real learning space which has alternatives built in for the students to engage in different scenarios within the same space. The project is ongoing.

School of Science and Engineering

Disaster Management Steve Wilks Summary: Experiential research shows that emergency responders gain from being able to rehearse action in scenarios which rarely happen in the real world and which cost a great deal of money to replicate on a training field. Being able to create interactive scenarios for students to practise procedures and record activity prior to an expensive training run allows for fine-tuning of these reactions and responses when required. Development: A field office is being developed for students to engage in a scenario which replicates the activity of those working for an NGO in a situation such as floods or earthquakes. Different information can be fed to the students in different ways, and with as much reliance on decisions that they take as possible. The timed release of information when students are undertaking an exercise


synchronously adds an element of time pressure which is authentic.

image of it on the teacher’s desk. Currently, the children scattered around the room are not active, this would be an additional factor for students to work with later. Project status: this classroom has much potential for more development within the Education department, but is currently only used by one academic. The topic is a yearly one, so is only in use whilst being taught.

Project status: Concept scenario is complete, and waiting for the academic content to be included ready for the academic year 2010/11.

School of Social Sciences and Law

Classroom Management Jayne Tidd Summary: The University does have primary classroom environments available to students, but there is little time potential in the curriculum to be able to study Classroom Management by moving the tables back and forth and examining the resultant change in dynamics. They especially cannot view the classroom choices and changes from that slightly out-of-body angle which allows an informative overview of the dynamics. Teesside University Business School Development: Building a classroom in Second Life allows for easy changes in layout to be instantly achieved and examined. The classroom can be divided, running two separate rooms, or used as one. Each potential layout is shown on the whiteboard and selected by clicking on the

The Fraud Offices John Peters Summary: The Fraud Offices were designed to provide discussion points for students around


seizure practices in office environments. The flexibility of the virtual world allows for different scenarios to be created in order to offer variations on the standard learning activity, thus enabling a broader spectrum for students to consolidate knowledge.

the student activity but without being seen by and a distraction to the students. The offices are located a chat distance break apart, and the central space is also equipped as a briefing/debriefing area with the possibility to retrieve and submit notes by students.

Development: Two initial scenarios were built, representing variations on a main theme. Designed to a detailed specification in terms of content, the builds included a number of items usually retrieved in an office seizure. Variation consisted of style of item (prompting questions as to whether this were a private or organisational item, such as address books, mobile phones) and state of item (requiring decisions about how to securely seize eg a PC locked with screensaver).

Items provided chatted information about themselves to the students, who engage in discussion about whether and how to seize them appropriately. Student discussion is captured by a chat log for revision by tutor and students afterwards. Additionally, tutors monitor the exercise when carried out synchronously by a group rather than as students practising, from a room between the two offices which has a ‘one-way mirror’ – a transparent wall, thus offering a clear view of

When this activity was introduced to the students, they were all fascinated by the concept of SL and its possibilities, mostly from a professional standpoint (ie can you launder money through virtual world enterprise?) more than in engaging in working within it. All mature students with no experience of Second Life, those who had heard of it alternately held a rather stereotypical ‘it’s all about the sex’ attitude or were surprised by the photorealistic


quality (even on a lab machine) of things like water reflection. Project status: 2009/10 did not have a cohort to run this module, further development may be desirable (if not strictly necessary) for use in 2010/2011.

General

Orientation

Developing the staff and scenarios are only half the work on a project. It is still all too easy to omit the students. Regrettably, despite a representative on Technical Projects and a scheduling of Second Life on a campus-wide updating software, most university IT labs are still short of basic required spec to be able to use Second Life effectively. This will continue to blight the potential for the effective use of immersive experiences in virtual worlds in HE for some time to come, despite the potential. Orientation for students, assuming computers highly enough powered, is absolutely key. There are some scorned tricks to this which make perfect sense when you have seen them work. Students will happily go off-piste from any instructions you give them while you are

ensuring all the class have managed to log in, and will likely not be brought back from fixing their hair to their liking. Students need to have an objective in orientation which engages them collaboratively and/or competitively. Treasure hunt type activities are very effective here, because they respond to the need to be ‘shooting bunny rabbits’ after half an hour – that is to say have agreed objectives that have taken them somewhere in the environment (I hesitate to use the word ‘game’) which shows them the reason they are here. So for our operating department students, their quest was to identify and locate a number of pieces of equipment in order for a theatre to be built for them. Working in pairs or small groups enables them to learn/teach each other different ways to search and navigate (running/flying to get to locations faster than the other teams) as well as essential communication skills (giving away hunt locations in local chat is not as useful as using IMs). The whole engages the students in working toward something which is more satisfying than simply waiting around wondering what to do next.

Whatever project is planned in Second Life, the orientation must also be planned. There may be common aspects and reusable objects, but each


orientation should be tailored to the students and the purpose that they are being introduced to Second Life for. This is crucial to the successful start of projects. The principle is easily adapted, just requires some creative thinking initially. This should be as important a part of the plan and development as any of the later activities. Think Gilly Salmon and the 5stage model‌

projects with external or internal funding do not share some of the resources that they have created. It is not in anyone’s long term educational interest to not share things like lab coats, nursing uniforms etc and similarly the basic furniture that everyone needs to build scenarios with. Whilst press releases may be sought and obtained for individuals or individual projects, really the most productive long term value in virtual worlds for education is in capacity building. That grows through social capital and constructive collaboration. Things created at Teeslife and available to the community include avatar sets with a range of clothing, hair and shapes, lab coats and also furnishings such as sofas and office chairs. An appropriate way to make these widely available in the long term is currently being sought.

General General

Reusable Objects

One of the most frustrating aspects to development in Second Life in education over the last two-three years has been the amount of re-inventing of wheels required, when

Blackboard Connector A Blackboard Greenhouse grant was awarded to Ball State University in order to look at developments between Blackboard and Second Life. This project resulted in the capacity to capture chatted discussion in Second Life directly to a discussion board in a module in Blackboard. This means that for example, a problem-based learning scenario can be kicked off in Second Life in a synchronous session, but students can go back and replay the scenario from a browser in Blackboard later and comment on and receive comments on their actions or responses.


group to encounter the equitable student experience is potential that remains untapped.

The original connector was static, but it is possible to include the scripts in a worn object, such as the microphone, which enables it to be taken into different situations, including onto other land such as on a field trip and for student conversations still to be recorded. Hopefully the new MBA programme will take advantage of some of this potential, not least to enable students to hear some great speakers from around the world.

General

Future Collaborations Due to technical overheads, not many people have so far chosen to use Second Life for distance delivery. We would not suggest that this is its most efficient use when many lower spec virtual classroom alternatives exist, however used appropriately and facilitated to provide a community space for an off-campus

The Venue is a space that we hope could be used for students to join together and work collaboratively with their tutors and each other, at our own institution and beyond. There is no reason to be limited by our own curriculum, nor to restrict usage to taught aspects. Students in fashion, media, arts, music, marketing, tourism and design should be encouraged to practise their profession within this safe space. It then also becomes a place to network as well as an


e-portfolio and indeed potentially a small additional source of income.

Conclusion

let’s face it, hopefully fun for the students. But it’s not necessarily that easy if you’re unfamiliar with the environment yourself. Because you may never know what’s possible when you don’t know what you don’t know. Maybe it’s time that as part of PGCs where technology-enhanced learning is on the curriculum, some of that should be delivered inworld. Showcases and exhibitions of resources should be available on people’s desktops, along with training videos. And we need to work out how to share as many reusable objects as possible. Having the odd developer or scripter around the place would be really handy – but why aren’t our computing students doing this as project work…?

This two years’ work with our Second Life island has produced a lot of ideas, some development and much inspiration. It is clear that there are some huge learning and experiential gains to be made by enabling students to engage in immersive situations. It is equally clear that most academic staff are not, and do not wish to

There’s still much to be done, but there’s much to do, so there’s still very much a reason to continue to learn how we can use this technology to enhance the student experience.

be, geeks. They need to be able to think about the learning experience that they can offer and to be able to deliver the intellectual ideas and content which will make this immersive experience appropriate, relevant, useful and

This isn’t a final report, it’s an interim one. Or even an initial one. There is a virtual Business School in build and a temporary Morgue structure being assembled as I write. The future is virtual, and, notwithstanding the rights on the statement, the future is orange 

Teeslife, a report  

August 2010. Two years of Second Life projects by Teesside University

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