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Mar 7 08

Second Life’s Web on a Prim – is getting closer

by shornik – Gaming Videos

Second Life released a new candidate viewer today, and one of the features with this release is the ability to display new media within Second Life. See the Second Life blog posting here. Prior to this release any land owner could choose to display video and/or music on their land. With the new release you can now display pictures and web pages!

Currently the what is displayed is a static web pages, so links are not clickable and scroll bars don’t scroll, but this is sure to be a boon to anyone wanting to bring in a web page to display in-world or to bring in text. For teaching purposes, you could display a wiki web page as your media, and make changes to that page (using your browser of course) and then “refreshing” the displayed web page in SL by toggling the media control off and on. Is this a bit clunky? Sure, but it’s a beginning and something a lot of people have been waiting for and is the first deliverable that we can play with since Philip Rosedale announced Web on a Prim should be available by May of this year.

Feb 29 08

91 Avatars!

by shornik

I’ve been a bit quiet in the posting department but that’s because I’ve been pleasantly busy with my course and Second Life. No day represents this better then the chaos and exhilaration of seeing 91 avatars come t, on February 4th complete their 1st homework assignment done completely in Second Life. As usual I like to show rather then tell so here’s a short video:

Seeing so many students over the course of the day and evening left me reflecting on the impact of watching your students do their homework! It’s something we don’t do, normally. It was amazing to be able to see what the students were doing, look at their transactions (On the notecard and visually via the model) and be able to provide feedback on the spot. This ability really highlights the possibilities of teaching in a synchronous environment. And amazingly (and this is important I’m sure, but don’t know quite why yet), the students stayed around even after they submitted their own assignment. They didn’t just log off (as they do when they submit things via WebCT). Certainly some were helping others, but many were well just watching, for what ever reason and I think that’s great!

Well here’s the boring technical stuff for what I did / what the students did. The 1st assignment (and the next two for that matter) were to create accounting transactions form problems in the students textbook. They had to write the transactions on a notecard NoteCardand drop it on the model. Here’s an example of a completed notecard (from assignment #3) on the right. The model would then process the transactions and let them know if the results of all their transactions was a balanced model (i.e. debits=credits). I found, and encouraged students to make changes to their notecard until the model was balanced – in that way they would know they had the right answer – so in the end there were over 1000 notecards with accounting transactions on them. To make my life easier I crated a script that would send me an e-mail of the content of each notecard in csv format that included the notecards owners name as the subject line, thus helping to authenticate who dropped the notecard. Here’s what the emailed assignment would look like:


Anyway, it worked great (a few hiccups with directions like renaming the notecard transaction, and such) but overall Second Life held up without a glitch and the model processing 1000+ notecards and sending out emails worked like a charm also.

Jan 22 08

Accounting students in Second Life

by admin

A quick update on student usage of Second Life for my Financial Accounting course at University of Central Florida. If you recall I was a bit disappointed in the usage of Second Life during the Fall 2007 semester. I attributed this mainly to the horrendous orientation experience they had (for the most part) which led to the erroneous belief that SL was just too difficult. To change this variable I have employed the NMC registration and orientation and it has worked like a charm. Another and very significant change was to make SL a mandatory part of the course. It is no longer positioned as this neat tool that you should try to help learn concepts that your professor knows are hard to learn. Rather, you must use it, you must complete HW assignments by using it, and a nice unforeseen opportunity – you can receive extra credit for doing a research project, but only in SL. Second Life is available to our students in all campus labs so hardware issues are no longer an available excuse. Finally, I have SL installed and running in the classroom computer, so each class can now have a SL component.

I know what your thinking, accountants in second life, how much fun can they have? I give you this short video and some pics to allay your fears, we are a partying bunch….

Jan 22 08

NMC Orientation Island – A Success Story

by admin

If you’ve read this blog from my initial postings, you will know that I was less then enthusiastic about the student orientation experience, and believe that at least in part the poor SL orientation island (what with students not being able to get off, the harassment, etc.) was reflected in the resistance my Fall 2007 students had to Second Life. Also as mentioned in those posts, a new type of orientation would be available for my Spring 2008 class – The NMC Orientation Island and what a difference a well thought out, education based orientation makes.

A quick mention of the highlights from an educators standpoint:

  1. Not one student has gotten “stuck” on NMC’s orientation island.
  2. Students that are unsure where to go, can IM me and receive a TP directly to our classroom in Second Life.
  3. Students having problems – with clothes or any other issue can be met at the orientation island (something impossible with SL OI) by myself, a TA, etc.
  4. Within minutes, if so desired, students can be on Teaching 4, for my own orientation of classroom objects.

I could not be more pleased with the results of having the students register via NMC and learn the basics via NMC, but there are a few downsides that should be mentioned in all fairness.

  1. A few accounts were broken (clothes didn’t rez, didn’t receive e-mail authorization), and the registration does not allow someone to get a new avatar with the same e-mail address. These students (and honestly only a handful out of close to 200) had to register and go through Second Life’s own orientation.
  2. Avatars can move off of the orientation island (see above), very quickly, thus more avatars were ending up in the classroom orientation lacking some very basic skills (a trade off I’m very happy to make). After all, I’d rather have students learn the basics in my classroom, exploring the learning objects if possible.

And the quantitative numbers prove (at least to me) the success of using this type of open orientation, for the first two weeks of the semester I have had the following:

Visit counts were maintained by DayaTech Greeter and Visitor counter – highly recommended.

Jan 4 08

Impromptu Tour

by admin

The Maryland State Society of CPA’s held a conference today on education “A Second Life for the Classroom” and one session was held to showcase Second Life. The Maryland State Society has two islands in Second Life, and is hoping to create an area on their CPA Island II where educators can collaborate. To that end they’ve created an area where colleges can create a kiosk with links to web sites and landmarks to in-world areas. The session was hosted by Rocky Maddaloni and Bean Wollogong. Bean suggested that education in Second Life is like a “snowflake on a mountain”, but they hope to increase this with CPA Island II. Zee Linden (CFO of Linden Labs) was in attendance and in an aside thought how great it would be to conduct CPE sessions in Second Life – I’d have to agree.

During the session, I was able to take about 20 avatars to my class in Teaching 4, and show them the interactive models I’ve been using. There were ~ 60 people attending from the Maryland physical location and they were able to join the tour as well. They seemed interested in the potential of Second Life for both business and education.

Overall this was a fun outing, and shows the incredible capabilities of Virtual Words for business communications. Attendees from within and without Second Life were able to come together (and for my small part, on short notice) see demonstrations and hear ideas of what can be done.

Jan 4 08

Was Second Life Engaging?

by admin

It’s now the end of the Fall 2007 semester, well a few weeks after, and just a few days before the beginning of the Spring semester at University of Central Florida. Looking at my blogs posts over the duration of the semester, it’s embarrassingly sparse, so before I reload and begin again in the Spring it’s time to assess what value using Second Life had for my accounting class. What I want to discuss here are the results of a survey I posted for my students (using SurveyGizmo) during the last few days of the semester. I wanted to gauge their assessment of the various technological tools I used over the semester: Second Life, Twitter, Meebo, and Cmap Tools. If your thinking, wow that’s a lot of technology (and none of it specific to accounting you’re correct, and some of the students felt the same way):

I did not use it because i did not perceive it as being necessary to learn accounting. People in the past have learned accounting just fine without all of these technologies. My view is KISS, keep it simple stupid.

The survey I created was intended to get feedback on all of these technologies, this post will focus only on Second Life. If useful, you might want to go back to my earlier posts that give the rationale for using Second Life to support my financial accounting course. First I was interested in finding out what the students used while they were in Second Life (metrics is sorely lacking in virtual worlds, though I hope to have much richer data in the Spring through the use of SLMetrics (see SLCN.TV video of SLMetrics for more details). The results indicated, well that most students didn’t use Second Life, but of those that did many were using Second Life to view the course lectures, followed by “just hanging out” and then the use of the interactive accounting models. Why weren’t students using Second Life more, and when they were why weren’t they using the 3-D tools I had built? After all I built them because I knew what concepts were difficult to learn, and thought that visualizing them would be beneficial.

There are multiple answers to that question. First, Second Life seemed to hard for the students (a topic discussed all over the blogosphere) and reinforced in the survey results that indicated 56% of the students who used Second Life found it Difficult or Very Difficult to use. The same percent (56%) indicated that had Second Life been “easier to use”, they would have used it more to learn the accounting concepts for the course. Here is a sampling of the comments related to students decision to not use Second Life:

I did not use it that often because it was hard to understand and was too slow on my computer. I could not grasp how to use it well.

and I could never make it off orientation island

I found the concept of secondlife to be morally wrong and ethically degrading. The title second life implies you aren’t satisfied with your first one. I felt very uncomfortable with the content on secondlife and what it represented.

i didn’t use secondlife because it sounded too complicated for me and im more of a classroom person when it comes to learning.

Having to create a person and everything was very time consuming and most college students are very busy.

Honestly, I got so confused trying to simply walk and talk to people that I just ended up getting frustrated.

I am an easily distracted student and have to focus extra hard. I chose not to participate …

I did not use it very much because I felt like I was playing on the computer instead of studying accounting, or another subject.

I did not use SL mainly because I have not been a good student this semester. But, sincerely, it was like too much technology also. I already had the screencasts to worry about and sometimes my computer would freeze using SL. I didn’t really feel very enthusiastic about SL. Not to mention my other classes also consuming my time. But maybe this will help: Next semester, explain further of the advantages of using SL if you really believe it’s of great aid. Honestly, I KNOW that I did not give it a chance, really, but I also did not FEEL what you felt for SL (I know you think highly of it). I think, that if maybe, you expressed the advantages and your feelings of SL, I would probably have dedicated more time to it. I didn’t know what the virtual office was for, for example. I didn’t know how to use it despite the fact that I attended the orientation (I tried clicking on something on the bulleting board and didn’t work, and I kind of just gave up on it). If you say in your class lectures for example, “Guys don’t forget that I am always available in the VR office and that you can…..etc etc by using my virtual office” then I probably would have been like “oh yeah, I gotta check that out again” I apologize if maybe you DID stress that and I don’t recall. Well, hopefully this HELPS (I am not doing this ONLY for Xtra credit)!

The last quote hit me hard, it woke me up from a self-induced depression, why weren’t the students using it as much as I had envisioned? This is the other part of the answer, that doesn’t have to do with learning curves or inadequate hardware. I hadn’t “sold” it, I hadn’t “pushed” it, in fact I hadn’t required it, but merely made it another tool that COULD be used for the class. It should be noted that the grades for the selected student quotes above ranged from C’s to F’s, nothing higher.

OK, well (and perhaps I should have started with this instead of leaving it for last), but what about the students who used Second Life and found it to be valuable? Here are some of their quotes:

I thought that Dr. Hornik being available to answer questions was SO HELPFUL. Having him be able to answer questions immediately instead of through email, or waiting until class was such a relief.

I think the 3-D Accounting Equation was the most valuable. It really REALLY helped me get some concepts down, and it was a good refresher throughout the course. I also really liked being able to discuss the class with others who I normally would never talk to in person.

Being able to talk to other people who had the same questions as I do and be able to hear answers straight from the professor.

The accounting model. Playing with the debits and credits and the expanded accounting model’s debits and credits was invaluable. The ability to reach Dr Hornik and communicate in a personal 3D world and not having to go to campus or un-personal email was fantastic.

The most valuable part of Second Life was the ability to listen to lectures at my own pace. I actually retained more because I viewed them at times when I was alert, instead of having to sit through class after a long tiresome day.

The notecards you placed all over the place were helpful to look at, especially prior to tests. I liked watching the lectures, underwater, for some reason. I think the turtles were pretty cool company. :-)

The lectures and conversing with the professor were definitely more valuable than if done via any other method. Being in SecondLife creates a more tangible feeling that what is being communicated. It’s honestly the next best thing from face to face.

It seems from these quotes that the models I created for students, the notecards, and textures placed around were certainly helpful. But what comes out loud and clear, at least to me, and this shouldn’t have been surprising but was, is that Second Life is above all else a social environment. Having a place for students to meet and discuss accounting, as well as to discuss questions with me is the most valuable aspect of a place like Second Life. Thankfully, it’s the most easiest to create as well.

Below are the details of the survey questions used for this blog post:

Ease of UseIf it was easier to use…Second Life UtilizationLectureViews

Nov 29 07

Playing Metanomics :: Higher Education in Second Life | SLCN

by shornik


Sep 13 07

Chisel CSV Visualisation

by shornik

I attended a Dr. Doobs Life 2.0 session a few weeks ago to see a demonstration of something called Chisel. Meeting

Chisel allows you to import CSV data, from an Excel spreadsheet, and import it into Second Life so you end up with a 3-D version of your data. As you can imagine I’m pretty excited about the possibility of having students create financial statements, and other accounting documents and bring then bring them into Second Life to view them! What a great tool for discussing how to analyze accounting information, looking at ratios in 3-D. The inventor of this tool is Vyrnox Ming


and the program is still in what I think he would term Beta, but it is very promising. I took some pics of the model during the demonstration and here they are (yes I should have made a video, but forgot) luckily there is one posted below from youtube.Chisel Model 1

Chisel Model 2The end result of uploading a small CSV file via web interface and importing it into Second Life.


Aug 28 07

Week 1 Update – Orienting

by admin

Our first week is over, and things have gone pretty smoothly in Second Life . In the past day my visitor counter has logged 48 visits from Saturday to Sunday, and 52 from Sunday through Tuesday morning . Undoubtedly the more adventurous students are coming in-world first. While I have received information from almost 1/3 of the 297 students currently registered (i.e. their Second Life names), I have not seen them all.

To re-hash, I am using Second Life to augment the Financial Accounting class, as I have to many students to use it as the sole teaching platform. I imagine it will take a few weeks for everyone to feel confident enough with the technology to try it out (it should be mentioned that in addition to Second Life the class is using or will be using Twitter – to receive extra credit assignments and Cmap Tools for creating concept/mind maps. In other words they are a bit overwhelmed with all the signing up for accounts and downloading various software for the course. Of course I have heard that a few are having hardware problems with Second Life, but not as many as I feared.

The first impression I have is without a doubt there needs to be a better way to orient the students to the educational functioning of Second Life. They need to know how to sit, how to turn on a video or audio stream, including installing QuickTime if they don’t have it (why Second Life installs do not come with QuickTime is beyond me), how to chat with objects, how to teleport and find your land after they get off of Orientation Island, etc. Since my students are doing this at various times as opposed to all being in a lab, I’ve been individually sending them TP’s or emailing them the SLURL. It would be far better to have the orientation right on your own land which is possible now and something I might try for Spring.

There seems to be help in this regard already in place: As reported by Orientation Station is a new orientation destination, according to

The Orientation Station estate consists of five regions beginning with the Welcome Area where residents can choose translations for their training in over 20 languages. The other regions address specific training needs.

Scholar provides extensive tutorials and resources for educators. …

I also learned that the SciLands has orientation which is available and allows you to meet your students as they come in-world for the first time – this should make the transition a bit easier, as you can help with the orientation.

I began to hold orientations for students once they get off Orientation Island, and will continue throughout the week to help make the transition for the students smoother. Here’s some pics of today’s session:

How to use media controls to view lectures Chatting with students during OrientationDemo of accounting equationT-account demo

The second thing I’ve discovered is that once students get to my land the first question is invariably, “what can I do here”? They are looking for interactivity but want to be shown where it is as opposed to exploring and reading bothersome notecards. I have noticed some students returning again and again, I think (hope) this is the engagement I’m looking to establish, and not a few number of them have mentioned that they are excited about the class, imagine students being excited about accounting! Of course it’s fun when you can go to a lecture underwater.

Lastly I have had quite a few discussions with several of the stuents in-world, asking me about homework and such, but also some very good conversations about more complex concepts such as why dividends are not expensed and why Net Income is not the same as cash. These are concepts that they are just working out, and quite frankly fairly advanced thoughts for the first week.

An explanation for this might be something I discussed at an in-world breakout discussion for the Education track for SLCC hosted by NMC (chat log of session), when Sneblen Dagger a student on the panel mentioned the hesitation of some students to ask questions from instructors (for many reasons but particularly because of a sense that the instructor is unapproachable because of their position and expertise). Second Life can remove these barriers, perhaps as a result of everyone’s Avatar looking similar, a democratizing effect occurs and questions are more forthcoming.

I do not believe Second Life is magically developing more in-depth thinking (at least not yet) but is allowing more in-depth questions to be asked. This is pretty powerful if the hypothesis is true.

Aug 21 07


by admin

The first day after my orientation lecture and I have students in Second Life. They are pretty much just poking around the place, though when I left tonight a few were watching lectures. Anyway not much to this post other then a few pics of the first two students who showed up and received a grand tour. Certainly much more to follow as more arrive and we see how they begin to use the space. Well here’s the pics, of me (Robins Hermano), Fatty Mighty and KittyLili.

Chatting with students on Teaching 4

Chatting around Really Engaging Accounting on Teaching 4

Chatting in front of my office

Chatting in front of my office.

And the obligatory, chatting with students while flying….

Chat and Fly