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Week 1 Update – Orienting

by admin on August 28th, 2007

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.

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