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Education in Virtual Worlds

Virtual Worlds & Teaching

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This article is a reflexion on two talks that were part of the MMVC14 Moodle moocs virtual conference 2014 I will start with the many possibilities teachers have to use 3D worlds in class. The great insight into what possibilities there are and how to use them comes from David Deeds, an English teacher with experience worldwide. In his online talks he informs and shows how virtual worlds can be used for teaching different subjects.

Deeds  is also a great story teller, he always manages to fascinate, motivate and activate the audience. This time his talk was complemented by Agile Bill Krebs, who spoke about the variety of existing worlds, their advantages and disadvantages . Krebs' knowledge and teaching skills made it easy for him to summarize succinctly an extensive field of complicated subjects in only one hour time. Agile offers online courses for teachers where different kinds of immersive worlds are used. The contents of the talks were the following: The first and most popular immersive virtual world is Second Life, which is not seen as "safe" for children as you can't exclude adults visiting the scenes. You can read more about SL in my previous articles. The alternative to SL could be Open Sim or Open Simulator, where you have the control of who can enter the world, the disadvantage is that you need to have your own server. This can be a financial problem for schools, it might also complicate things if administrators are involved and teachers need to get permissions from different departments or authorities. It could be worth the effort though. Universities use it successfully to teach languages for example. And I must say knowing that you won't have anybody disturbing your lessons anonymously makes your immersive adventure even more pleasant. Kitely is another alternative to SL. There you can create your own world, but you also have to pay. It is probably the most expensive of all alternatives, still people might find it the most secure way to teach too. This is an introduction explaining how Kitely works. I find it most creative as classes with many students can build their own environments, so the learning potential in several subjects is amazing. It is ideal for long term projects. There are other forms of virtual environments, even as apps for tablets like the ones offered by Sococo and Webex, some are free and some not. These alternatives are called: "collaborative learning environments" they seem to be a new development people used to Sims have to get acquainted with. These environments work differently because they are not the classical immersive worlds, but they are interesting as they combine a lot of communication in one app. Sococo is free and is called "The Mobile Office"  as people can screen share, telephone, invite people to the group and use videos to work together in different virtual rooms wherever they are. Webex offers training and promises that your webinars will be high impact. Collaborative environments might be a good alternative for people who don't want to try immersive worlds. The question is finding the right software for the students you have. With all those possibilities it seems strange for teachers not to be using immersive or collaborative environments to teach at least a few hours per year whatever the reason. But how to decide? First you should make a needs analysis and then chose what fits best, it can always help going to second life or try a free collaborative software to start with. Try everything out without commitments before making a choice and read a good introduction.  Literature on how to teach in 3D worlds: A Practical Guide to Second Higher Education


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