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Was Second Life Engaging?

by admin on January 4th, 2008

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

  1. Hi Steven,

    Thanks for sharing the results of your survey! I’m in the middle of an MSc dissertation investigating the use of SL as a place for virtual peer support for pre-service teachers. I have found many similar results when it comes to students’ use of SL. I’d like to use some of your comments (not the student comments) in my research, if you don’t mind? I’ll be happy to share my results with you when I finish the dissertation in May.


    Bonnie Long
    MSc in Technology and Learning
    Trinity Collece, Dublin

  2. I like to think i’m learning, but when i learn one thing another comes along, 24hours in the day is just never enough, cheers for your insight

  3. My experience using 2L in management courses is that some students are not technology oriented and are less comfortable in proceeding in game-like environments. What they want to go into 2L in groups, perhaps lead by a professor, so that they have constant directions, explanations, successes, etc. This is a model that I am proceeding with.

  4. Tracy B permalink

    I’m dying to know if you are still using Second Life.

    I have registered, and poked around a little, but, like your students, am having a tough time getting where I want to go. I’ve recently begun teaching Accounting Principles, on top of a diverse accounting career. In atempting to get today’s students ‘engaged,’ I came across several references to second life, and it seemed like the overall panacea to my experience that the students are challenged to show up with a pencil and calculator, much less having opened the text book. I was surprised and disappointed to see that so many students thought SL was too complicated and too much technology. I’d been laboring under the assumption that if we could just apply enough techno-bells and whistles to the debits and credits, they’d all be in balance! I also assumed there was no one under the age of 30 who thought anything in a gaming system was too complicated!
    I guess this underlines the message that not all students of any generation — boomers, genx,or millenials — can be lumped together. And I’ll keep looking for the magic wand to enthuse my students.

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