Research Seminars at University of Worcester Island

Forthcoming sessions in Academic Year 2011/2012:
Time 1200hrs GMT, 4am SLT

May Thursday 31st 2012. Dr Mark Childs will be our speaker, the topic is based around student’s development of identity. Virtual worlds are an excellent laboratory for exploring issues of identity, and experimenting with who (and what) we are. Some teaching exercises are designed to make use of these features, and are built around learners changing the sex of their avatar or its ethicity. More generally, evidence from a range of research indicates that learners who are more immersed, and have developed a sense of themselves in a virtual world, are more effective learners in those environments.

In this session, Mark Childs and Rich Sanders discuss a series of learnig activities that have taken place at Newman University College. These sessions were aimed at introducing students to the idea of identity and virtual world identity and understanding some of the resulting issues that occur. More problematically, the aim was to begin to encourage students to reflect on their own sense of self, and particularly how their identity is manifested and represented in the virtual world.

To this end, an activity was created, based on Carina Girvan’s use of story cubes. The result of using these identity cubes indicated that giving students a “physical” object around which to locate their discussions of identity greatly facilitated the discussion.

This session will give participants the opportunity to learn more about learners’ identity and representation of identity in virtual worlds, and the impact this may have on learning, as well as discuss their own experience of developing identity.

The seminar will be at our normal time and place.

April Thursday 26th 2012 Dr Simon Hosken (profhosken) and Danny Kopp presented, Arkansas: Teaching the State history in Second Life.  Here is the video of Simon’s talk and our visit to the University’s Island.  Unfortunately there were some technical problems again (they were SLs not ours this time) so we only have about 15 minutes of video but there is plenty to interest you on what is there.

Profhosken has passed on this message:

Well, sorry about the seminar.  Apparently the grid crashed.   It was a pleasure to meet you all and I hope that you enjoyed seeing what is available and what has been done.    Our teaching in Second Life is a “work in progress.”  It continues to evolve as we think of new ways to engage the student.  What we have found so far is that by allowing the student to build, and it is connected with the topic, they have a greater sense of ownership.  A good example would be the pictures at Wilson Hall.  The student was tasked with taking an in-world picture of any aspect of the Heritage Sites.  They then had to place their picture in the display area and write a short essay about the significance of the picture.  This also had to be placed in the display.   I think between us we managed to “friend” you all.  Please if you have any questions or suggestions look for us and we will be more than happy to help.  And of course we are more than happy for you come to the Heritage Sites or Wilson Hall.  Again, thanks for today. Hope we see you in-world soon.

At the start of the Fall 2011 semester Simon and Danny were introduced. Danny, a graduate assistant and technical genius is about to finish his Masters degree in History and pursue a PhD program.

During the fall of 2011 Simon used Second Life as a supplement to his regular on-line Arkansas History. Utilizing the Heritage areas already developed by Arkansas State University Simon and Danny took it to the next level for the Spring of 2012. They created a replica of the University’s Humanities building. This includes classrooms and work areas for the students.

With the support of the History Department Chair, Dr. Gina Hogue during the winter break they developed a total course teaching the State’s history entirely in Second Life. While the course emphasizes the history of Arkansas it also exposes students to building and creation within the virtual world.

February Thursday 23rd 2012, Linda (Zola Zsun). Linda is currently writing a paper on the subject of emotion and learning and learning in immersive virtual worlds and runs the Experiential Social Club in Second Life. Linda will be talking about how 3D Virtual environments, even though in their early stages, show a way to experience many of the emotional states otherwise limited to face to face encounters and the relevance of this to teaching and learning. (Sorry there is no video of Zola’s talk the technology completely collapsed!)

January Thursday 26th 2012, Shailey Minocha (Shailey Garfield), Dr. Shailey Minocha is Reader in Computing at The Open University, UK. Here is the video of Shailey’s talk. Sorry about the few odd quick zoomy stuff, I caught my fingers on my magic mouse 🙂 Shailey’s talk was really interesting and we all came away with lots of lovely tips on how to design and navigate people through the learning spaces we create. Like all the videos this one takes a little while to download, so don’t try to rush it 🙂 If you want to read the text chat it’s best to view in full screen.

Shailey’s research involves evaluating emerging socio-technologies such as social software and 3D virtual worlds to investigate user behaviour and inform design for a positive user experience. Shailey and her student Chris Hardy received the Gitte Lindgaard Award for the best paper presented at OZCHI 2011 ( ). The paper details are at: and it relates to the design of navigation and wayfinding in 3D learning spaces (Second Life).

Our research in two recent projects has involved investigating.: a) the relationship between the design of learning activities and design of learning spaces; b) designing navigation and wayfinding in learning spaces. Based on our empirical studies with Second Life educators, designers and students, we have derived a number of design principles and heuristics for the design of learning spaces in virtual worlds. I will present the highlights of our research and some of the key design principles.

Shailey’s research publications are listed on her university’s repository’s website:

December – Closed for Christmas! 🙂

December 1st the SPECIAL DECEMBER MEETING – with Tom Boellstorff was really fantastic – everyone enjoyed having a chance to talk with such an experienced researcher. Here is the video of Tom’s Seminar. This takes a while to load so start downloading and go and make yourself a cup of coffee 🙂

Tom is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Tom is also Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. Tom is a frequent author, but you are probably most familiar with his book Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, which was published in 2008.

November Thursday 24th 2011, Gemma Tombs (Gem Bolissima), How practitioners conceptualise and design learning spaces for Second Life – see more detail below andthe video of Gemma’s Seminar.

October Thursday 27th 2011 , Dr Mark Childs (Gann McGann), Ethics of teaching in immersive virtual worlds (IVWs) – see below for more detail and the video of Mark’s Seminar.

September Thursday 29th 2011, Dr Barbara Mitra (Maria Aura) and Tim Johnson (Bluesky Larkham), Exploring Identity – see more detail below

Hi Everyone! You are very welcome to come to the Research Seminars we hold on University of Worcester Island in Second Life once a month.

A different person each month leads the seminar. Each person has carried out research into education in Second Life, the researchers come from a range of different backgrounds and include Educational Technologists, Lecturers, Librarians, Sim Managers and VW Technology Developers.

The Seminars are held:

  • On Thursdays
  • At 1200hrs GMT (or BST in the Summer), that’s 4am SLT,
  • last for about one hour
  • The speakers might use voice instead of text so please check your earphones before hand.

Please remember to bring a packed lunch 🙂
Advertisements supplying information about the up-coming seminar are sent out in advance in Second Life. If you would like to know more please send a Note Card to Bluesky Larkham or email Tim Johnson

Gemma Tombs – November 24th 2011

Video of Gemma’s Seminar. This takes a while to load so start downloading and go and make yourself a cup of coffee 🙂

Gemma Tombs is a 3rd year PhD student based at Coventry University, Learning Innovation ARG. She is part of a Leverhulme Trust funded study exploring the use of virtual worlds in higher education. Her research topic explores pedagogical design for virtual worlds, with a particular interest in the ways in which pedagogy and policy interact.

Dr Mark Childs October 27th 2011

Video of Marks Seminar. This takes a while to load so start downloading and go and make yourself a cup of coffee 🙂

This discussion leads from my previous Worcester Island seminar, which was on students’ responses and resistance to learning in virtual worlds, and asks the question that, given those responses, what are the ethics of expecting students to learn in a virtual world?

The value of virtual worlds in certain learning and teaching situations has now been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt through many case studies of effective practice, although the full range of effective uses are still being determined. There are still certain risks involved, however. The questions to be discussed in the seminar are:

  • What are the risks?
  • How do we limit these risks?
  • What are the ethical implications?
  • Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
  • What general principles should inform our practice?

This will be a guided discussion, rather than a presentation, since there are no firm rules once you’re this far down the rabbit hole.

Dr Barbara Mitra and Tim Johnson September 29th 2011

We are looking at identity in a different way and the research approach is different. We will be presenting some of our research at the Innovative Research in Virtual Worlds Conference, being held at Coventry University on 3rd & 4th November 2011. Very briefly our research involves:

  • The students are exploring identity in SL and we are observing them doing that
  • We are also investigating how they conseptualise and develop their identity
  • I’m looking at, or hoping to look at, the lecturers and their reactions to taking students into SL including their reactions to the students’ avatar identities

On Thursday we will mainly look at issues about identity and the first steps of guiding the students through the introduction. This part is the very first part of the research and we won’t be saying much about it at all in Coventry.


21 responses to “Research Seminars at University of Worcester Island

  1. Mark Childs

    Neat idea to add the chat box as a subtitle to your recording, I think it’s worked really well. I’d like to reinstate though my reference for the quotation that starts “if we ditched every technology which someone just didn’t want to use” . It’s from John Kirriemuir’s Zen and the Art of Avatar Maintenance.

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