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University of the West of Scotland:

Tale of Two Classes


This case study outlines how SLOODLE tools were used to support
teaching and learning with Second Life® in two classes at the University
of the West of Scotland. One class was an honours year option in which
Second Life was a core part of a course where students developed
significant group projects using or extending Second Life. In contrast,
Second Life was only briefly used in the second, online only, class. But
despite with very little experience of the platform students were able to
use Second Life for class presentations, thanks to SLOODLE.
This case-study assumes some familiarity with common Second Life
terms.
Second Life® and SL™ are trademarks of Linden Research, Inc.

SLOODLE is funded and supported by Eduserv

SLOODLE is supported by the San Josė State University School of Library


and Information Science

SLOODLE is supported by the University of the West of Scotland

SLOODLE is an Open-Source project, released under GNU Public License.


More details at http://www.SLOODLE.org

In the following case study you will see the following symbols used:
 This is a note, and may indicate an alternative use of SLOODLE or
other aside.

 Good practice tip – a tip which might make running a class with
Second Life and SLOODLE go more smoothly.
The Two Courses
Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVE) is an honours year optional
module in which students learn about and use a range of collaborative
technologies. Group projects develop applications and new tools for using
the technologies, or extend the technologies themselves. Second Life has
been a core element of this class for the past three years.
In contrast, Introduction to Virtual Worlds (IVW) is a second year distance
learning class offered to students through the university‟s Lifelong
Learning program. This class has been taken by a mix of full time and
part time students, and students explore a range of different virtual world
platforms, looking at their use in a range of application areas – from
entertainment to education and corporate applications. Second Life was
only introduced towards the end
of this class.

Moodle
SLOODLE integrates Second Life
with the popular, open-source,
VLE/LMS 'Moodle'. Moodle
provides a flexible web-based
platform where tutors can
customise course pages by adding
or removing a wide range of
activities and content 'blocks'. For
more on Moodle, see http://www.moodle.org/

Setting Up
Preparations for the classes started with setting up the Moodle courses.
The Moodle site was given a distinct and enhanced look by using the
ThemZa „Global Network‟ theme from the Moodle themes database.

 Adding a custom theme is the easiest and perhaps most effective


way of enhancing the look and feel of Moodle. A large database of
free themes can be found at http://bit.ly/Dxwvo

Collaborative Virtual Environments


The CVE course was campus based – but delivered at two campuses some
two hours travelling time apart (Paisley and Dumfries). Lectures were
shared using video-conferencing, while labs used Second Life allowing
students on both campuses to interact with each other throughout the
timetabled hours. The Moodle course page was central to co-ordinating
student activity, and preparation of this involved:
 Adding a „Teleport Now‟ button to take students to class area in
Second Life. This used a SLurl and an image of the virtual island
taken from Second Life.
 News and discussion forums
 Blocks added to page for link to Moodle blog (Blog block) and to an
externally hosted blog used for written assignments (RSS block).
 Once groups had been selected and set up on Moodle (see below),
chatrooms were created for each group‟s private use and a Group
discussion forum added – this single forum allowed users to filter
discussions based on group membership.


 Have your Moodle course pages prepared for students before the
class starts – this is especially important for distance learning and
off campus students! Decide which activities and blocks you will be
using and customize the course page accordingly.

Students, Groups and Student Choice


The first class activity tasked students to
introduce themselves to their classmates
over video-conferencing link. An outline of
the course was presented, and a range of
possible projects were suggested for
students to consider and select.
With students from a range of backgrounds,
some projects focussed more on the
underlying technology of Second Life,
instead of its applications. The four projects
selected were:
 Second Life client mod project. The Second Life client is open
source, and it is possible for students to download and modify the
source code itself, programming in C++. This was of interest to
students interested in working on more significant software
engineering challenges, working with „real‟ code.
 Second Life bot project. There are a range of Artificial Intelligence
based bot/chat-bot technologies already available for use with
Second Life. Students worked with these to develop AI guides for
Second Life.
 Develop a virtual world campus for UWS. Approximately half of the
land area of the university sim was allocated to the large group
working on this project.
 Develop a web and virtual world presence to promote/support the
“Homecoming Scotland” tourism marketing campaign. About one
fifth of the sim was allocated for this (more narrowly focussed)
project‟s use.

Getting Started with Second Life


The first week‟s lab activity in Second Life focussed on ensuring that all
students were able to register accounts on Second Life and from there to
simply log into Second Life, find the university sim and to experiment with
the building tools.

 Once students had logged in, the first activity was to join the class
group – without expending a lot of time, students were quickly
introduced to chat, IM and group IM communications.
 Depending on your class, exploring avatar identities and
experimenting with appearance may be a class activity or, as here,
left for students to explore in their own time. Some students in the
classes described here used default avatars throughout – others
were significantly more experimental.

Students appeared to master communication quite quickly – prepared by


prior experience with other internet based text-chat applications. Rather
than expend time ensuring students mastered the finer points of
communications, an introductory building activity completed the first lab
session.

 For some student cohorts and classes there are potential benefits in
introducing object creation in Second Life as soon as possible.
Positive results were gained from this approach with digital art
students in the JISC OpenHABITAT project, for example.

A SLOODLE distributor pre-prepared by the tutor with a selected range of


'freebie' objects – allowing students to finish the session by playing
around with existing Second Life content.
 The Object Distributor is an Second Life distribution system which
can be accessed from Moodle. In Second Life, a distributor was set
up prior to the class coming to Second Life and a large and varied
array of free items – clothing, custom avatars and accessories –
placed inside for students to play with and explore.

Group Work
Students were placed into groups at the start of the second lab session.
Students were asked to start the lab session in SL by clicking on a
registration booth that was set up in the class sand-box area. By following
simple prompts, and logging into
Moodle, the students' avatars are then
paired with their Moodle user accounts
– a simple but necessary step for full
use of SLOODLE.

Each group then retreated to a separate


chat area to discuss their group goals
and plans. Each chat area was provided
with a SLOODLE web-intercom,
connected to a Moodle chatroom.

 Web-intercom automatically archives in-world discussions on the


Moodle web-site. Students reported that this was particularly useful
for reviewing agreed goals, objectives and progress.
Formally introducing tools in lab activities can highlight their
potential applications to students who might otherwise not make
use of the tools.

The synchronous in world discussion was extended with groups


additionally using the Moodle forums, Google Docs, file-sharing sites and
bulletin-boards as they worked on their projects over succeeding weeks.
Again, Google Docs was used in a lab activity - few of the students had
made much prior use of Google Docs, and even fewer were aware of the
synchronous editing and sharing capabilities.

Virtual Classroom Activities


The taught component of the course was primarily delivered via video
conferencing, with a few of the lectures taking place in Second Life itself.

One lecture was a review of teaching tools in Second Life. To help


maintain engagement during this lecture a SLOODLE Choice tool was
prepared and used as a form of „audience response system‟, or „clicker‟.
With options ranging in a five-point scale from “Always/Strongly Agree” to
Sloodle to “Never/Strongly Disagree”, it was possible to ask questions at
a number of points through the class and quickly obtain a visual indication
of the student feedback. Additionally, in this and other in-world sessions
students were required to move between different locations in Second Life
to view different artefacts.
 It is not always possible to ascertain whether or not a student is still
at their keyboard – let alone whether they are reading email or
browsing the web while logged in. Asking students to reply to
questions or moving the whole group at irregular intervals can help
ensure that students remain focussed on the class.

Virtual Field Trips


Virtual field trips can be very
easy to arrange in Second Life
– with content creators often
eager to show-off their
creations. This is true of many
commercial, corporate,
governmental or academic
sites. One of the CVE class
field trips was to the in-world
campus for the Open
University, a tour led by Anna
Peachey.

To enable the automatic


logging and archive of chat from the virtual field trip, a web-intercom was
„worn‟ by the tutor by dragging from inventory onto his avatar. The
intercom could then be taken with the group to each location visited (see
picture), and worked as normal.

 Second Life terms-of-service require that permission is obtained


before logging chat, and this is requested when the intercom is
clicked on. The intercom only records chat from avatars who agree
to the logging.
On a private sim it is possible to establish terms of use that make it
clear to visitors that their chat will be logged – and the intercom
scripts can be modified accordingly.

Introduction to Virtual Worlds


The Introduction to virtual worlds class spent only a few weeks with
Second Life, after undertaking activities in a wide range of alternative
virtual worlds in previous weeks. The homepage for this course was,
again, a Moodle site. A key feature for this distance learning class was the
use of Moodle discussion forums for asyncrhonous discussions between
classes, and a wiki in which students wrote their individual chapters for a
class project – a text on virtual worlds.

There were few opportunities to use SLOODLE tools to support this class,
as only the final few weeks of activities took place in Second Life and the
students were not tasked with any form of content creation. However,
students did need to give presentations to the class in Second Life – and
the SLOODLE presenter was
used for this. This allowed the
students to focus on the
content of their presentations,
without having to worry about
how to import or upload textures
in Second Life – or even how to
edit notecards – while allowing
students with prior Second Life experience to enhance their presentations
with 3D content.

Instead, each student was given „teacher‟ permissions on a presentation


in the Moodle site. This allowed them to upload slides, images and even
videos onto the web, and to have this media automatically streamed into
Second Life onto a presenter display rezzed inworld by the class tutor.

Summary
Over two different classes, with very different aims and objectives,
SLOODLE tools provided support to tutor and to students in teaching and
learning. Students‟ themselves made effective use of SLOODLE tools in
supporting group work activities and for presenting their own work to
other students inworld – in a short period of time, without having to first
become conversant with object creation and editing in the virtual world.

More SLOODLE
This case-study illustrates the use of a just some of the SLOODLE tools
and features.

Interested and want to know more? Visit the SLOODLE project homepage
– http://www.sloodle.org . Here you‟ll find forums for users and
developers (all welcome!) as well as Spanish language forums. The
forums are active, and most requests for help are answered within 24
hours, sometimes significantly less.
You‟ll also find links to our wiki, tutorial videos and a whole lot more!

Visit the SLOODLE homepage - http://www.SLOODLE.org – or come


to one of our regular inworld meetings to learn more.

About Moodle

The SLOODLE homepage has been created using Moodle, the open-source
learning and content management system. You can learn more about
Moodle at http://www.moodle.org/

Moodle is used by over 30 million students and tutors worldwide, and is


the virtual learning environment of choice for thousands of schools,
colleges, universities and businesses.