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December 09, 2007

UM in Second Life: Our First Community Brown Bag

Second Life is one of several virtual worlds or MUVEs (multi-user virtual environments). Second Life (SL) in particular has become prominent in educational circles over the past couple years, with established presences from many universities. More background information about Second Life is available from this slidecast.

The University of Michigan opened Wolverine Island for use by the UM Community this term (Fall 2007). Since then, Wolverine has continued to rapidly evolve and change, with more interesting and dynamic spaces. The first course to be taught at Wolverine was an elective for the M1 students (more on that later). The first community social event, a brown bag to discuss future needs and plans for the UM SL community, happened this past Friday. I thought it would be remiss of me to not report back on how the event went, generally, and the actual work productivity interaction features of the meeting.

We'd been asked to have a series of events for people new to Second Life where they could come to a campus location and practice their skills with more expert people available to help. With that in mind, this was a combined real world / virtual world event. The real world location was the new Crossroads computer classroom at the School of Public Health.

Regarding the location in Second Life, here are some images of both Wolverine Island and the people (avatars) who came to the Brown Bag.

Around 20 people attended the session*. 7 came to the real world location, and almost all of those were our team of designated helpers. So where were people coming from?
- 7 = Public Health classroom
- 2 = working from home
- 2 = Med School
- 2 = own office
- 1 = Dearborn campus
- the rest = unspecified
* 17 verified, but I didn't catch all of the names, so there were more.

Not everyone identified their departments, but those that did included people from the libraries, Medical School, Department of Kinesiology, School of Information, LS&A, and Dearborn Campus.

At one point, we were talking about the potential of SL for distance education, but from this I could see some real utility for just regular meetings! Think of all those meetings you go to all around campus and the travel time you plan, and then imagine going to a meeting by popping onto your computer, with your office around you and your desk and files and cup of coffee ready to hand. Even with this meeting, at the end, about half the people leaving on time said they had real world meeting they needed to get to. This made for a bit of contrast.

Just to show that meetings in Second Life can be productive, let me share a bit of what happened. The topic of the meeting was brainstorming for what we would like to do for future brainstorming sessions. Here is an abbreviated and selected list of topics suggested in the 45 minutes of active discussion.

- invited speakers
- experimental techniques or tools
- checklists or best practices for types of events

- rules or guidelines for effective use of voice
- learning curve vs. learning cliff: does SL keep changing too much to be effective in education?
- do we need a real world pre-orientation before students enter SL?
- providing or getting tech support for SL for UM activities
- Doing field research in SL, getting started, logistics, etc
- finding funding for SL projects

- best practices in SL education
- tours to educational places + discussion/conversation
- SL for distance learning
- Herding Cats 101 (how to coordinate a class moving around SL)
- developing mentoring system for new teachers in SL
- what types of SL instruction and class activities best work with new students?
- how to best orient new students to SL
- teaching in SL, lessons learned
- managing student accounts with money
- conducting constructivist learning activities in SL
- market penetration of SL in our student populations

- voice configuration
- safe places for newbies
- best places for education
- who and how to ask for help
- finding professional attire
- getting dressed, making outfits, making clothes 101
- building tutorials
- scripting tutorials
- how to stream audio/video for events
- things to do with textures
- building tours or HUDs
- tips for combined RL/SL events
- capturing class sessions for asynchronous viewing
- machinima
- using mouseview and taking pics in SL
- things to do with your Profile
- lag and how to prevent it
- finding/using animations
- creating custom animations
- navigation in SL, tips and tricks
- inventory management skills

The group discussed a variety of ideas for future events, so stay tuned. For the short-term, please feel free to join us at more brown bags in Second Life. They are Fridays, noon Michigan time or 9-10 SLT (Second Life Time) at the campfire on Wolverine Island (unless otherwise specified).

December 14, noon
TOPIC: prioritizing future brown bag topics, what is most important to the UM Second Life community

December 21, noon
TOPIC: A tour of Wolverine Island

Contact Patricia Anderson, pfa at umich dot edu, or IM Perplexity Peccable in Second Life.

Posted by pfa at December 9, 2007 08:13 AM


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