Re: [xmca] zopeds and virtual learning environments

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sun Jan 07 2007 - 09:56:27 PST

Clearly ways to explore ways to probe the potential of Second Life/SL are
worthwhile and from varous
posts it seems like there is more than a little "local" expertise on XMCA.
I've started to probe here at UCSD
with relevant colleagues.

To be retro for a moment.

We do not have any short term way to avoid large lecture classes here at
UCSD, Jay, and we are better off
that a lot. Consequently, I have been exploring ways to hijack the
bureaucratize system by working within
the course time frames (say, two weekly slots of 1.5 hours plus a 50 min
section plus webboard-style facilities)
but radically re-organizing how the time slots a spent. I also have to keep
in mind that many students work
20-30 hours a week so their schedules are not flexible.

Gordon Wells is doing some similar explorations. The idea is, for example,
to use one of the class sessions to create
small activity groups in the general area of the lecture hall (we have
benefit of generally good weather) among whom faculty
and TA's circulate. Small groups have reading-oreinted problem solving tasks
to carry out such as, for example, posing
important question to webboard, one per group. I then address leading
questions online and in lecture. Others are using
"clickers" to get some kinds of interactive feedback.

I don't see any "one right answer" and it is still almost impossible to
provide adequate practice in,/evaluation and feedback on
written texts by students, but I find that the mixture of real and non-real
time and different participation structures, combined
with strategic use of office hours appears to increase student enthusiasm
and involvement and even performance.

I worry about issues of access a lot in the non-brave new world of zombie
robots and spam. The MMOGS require fast accesss
and strong hardware. I can provide that to restricted numbers of students on
campus, but the working class students do not
generally have it where they live, which creates inequalities that are

Nonetheless, clearly worth study and especially for us folks who are
fascinated by the potentials ot time/space shifting.
On 1/7/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
> I am very pleased to hear from people on xmca who are interested in
> these issues of online environments, learning, identity, etc.
> I sympathize with Mike's challenges facing 200 undergrads (how do you
> "face" 200 people??), and ultimately there are some serious issues
> regarding mass higher education that universities have been refusing
> to deal with for a long time now. I don't think anyone really
> believes that lectures to 200 people are any better than having them
> watch a video of the lecture. Really good lecturers do manage
> sometimes to feel the mood of an audience (think how is an "audience"
> different from a classroom learner, or a small-group learning
> partner) and respond live in real time, and once in a while there is
> even some verbal interaction ... but these exceptions hardly justify
> a system which we all know is meant to subsidize faculty time for
> research by short-changing undergrads who lack the power to protest
> effectively (or maybe they don't, as we saw in the early 70s before
> the economy conveniently clamped down on all deviation from someone's
> mainstream).
> Large-scale multi-user online environments offer a different model
> for scaling across interaction group-sizes. They generally allow
> people to network with one another, building on old biological and
> cultural foundations for this, pairwise and in various groupings that
> interconnect in much the way ordinary social life and smaller scale
> societies do, so that information, knowledge, practices, styles, and
> fads propagate without a central control agency (or centralized power
> hierarchy) directing this. (Of course MMOs do have power elites,
> starting with the "owners", and all social systems seem to evolve
> status differentiations that get hierarchized to some degree.)
> An MMO model, whether free-space like SecondLife, or more organized
> and specialized like the gameworlds, is not a good place to try to
> "deliver" uniform curriculum content to large numbers of clone
> "students". On the other hand, they are great places for social
> learning, apprenticeships, exploration, and the kind of learning
> people often do in ordinary (non-school) life, in museums and zoos,
> libraries, etc. When the environments are enriched by simulation
> media (which I am guessing is what the geology example entails),
> there is all the more to be done, chatted about, and learned. But
> what is really learned is how to learn in, with, and from a social
> community, without someone telling you what to do, what to learn,
> when, and how.
> I think an xmca or CHAT-SIG presence in SL would be a great idea,
> certainly for research and discussion. It could be another node for
> connecting people who are doing various concrete projects there, and
> without doubt CHAT is a good starting framework for thinking through
> many of the relevant issues.
> One of the role-playing MMOs, GuildWars, has a different business
> model, with no use fees, just the cost of buying the initial
> software. I don't know if the publishers, NCSoft, might be responsive
> to some sort of N-user software license offer. Buying software is
> just like, and about the same cost, as buying a textbook. A lot to be
> learned in any MMO about narrative, the future of communication, etc.
> SecondLife, however, is probably better if you want a protected or
> access-controlled environment to experience more course-centric
> activities. As Linda and other noted, the managers of SL are very
> researcher-friendly, and they have a designated contact whose SL-name
> is Pathfinder Linden (aka John Lester).
> I've participated in two of the Madison conferences and they are
> great places for anyone on xmca interested in these issues. I was
> also one of those invited into the Macarthur online forum, and it's
> archives are probably public and still available.
> I'd be very surprised if the average (male) UCSD undergrad doesn't
> have gamer experience, and probably some MMO or at least multi-player
> experience. As has probably already been noted, women do play a lot,
> esp. in many MMOs (where gender is often not what it appears -- but
> then where is it so??) and in spaces like Whyville (an exceptional
> case being studied by Yasmin Kafai at UCLA) and the variations on The
> Sims. If the UCSD campus is not building bandwidth as fast as it can,
> you need a new IT master plan, and some new leadership -- a large
> fraction of all university activities are likely to be conducted in
> online environments 20 years from now, and no one is going to be
> willing to sit in a lecture hall of 200 students unless the seats are
> connected to VR-goggles! Higher education has really got to get off
> its ass, or its ass will be handed to it sooner than it imagines. I
> just wish I had a boot big enough to give a similar kick to the much
> bigger butt of public school education, which is now totally obsolete
> for its students and headed if anything back to the stone age (or at
> least ancient Babylonia, which invented the system we're still using.)
> Angry but optimistic,
> JAY.
> At 05:04 PM 1/5/2007, you wrote:
> >hello mike and everyone
> >
> >i am working in SL with a university course and in SL Teenworld with
> >a high school geoscience course that i am designing - i am also
> >designing a 3-D virtual online simulation site to be used to train
> >urban teachers at the Instituted for Urban Education in KC. i
> >believe these virtual simulations are going to be used extensively
> >for educational purposes - including training teachers or insurance
> >agents or anyone else who needs to be able to problem-solve in fluid
> >complex environments. these 3-D virtual environments are very
> >social- as Anna asked- and i can design the 'group work' in these
> >environments in much the same way that i would design a real world
> >classroom --
> >
> >mike- i use SL because it is very friendly- as linda noted- to
> >researchers- Linden agrees to give you a free island and there is a
> >collaborative group -SLED- that is a great resource-but for my high
> >schoolers- we will go to TeenWorld -- a much more controlled
> >environment- you can control the access much easier- and there are -
> >as linda noted- incredible resources available in SL teen world --
> >the US Geological Society is in SL for instance-
> >but i believe that it may be necessary if you get into a large
> >program (like Sasha's Quest Atlantis) to design your own virtual
> >world. i have written a grant to get funding for this for the
> >GeoWorld program-
> >
> >as for research--how do these virtual environments impact the
> >acquisition of knowledge and the useability of this knowledge in RL?
> >when does the media impact (as Jay noted) - the gaming environment
> >for instance- benefit the learning --with higher levels of
> >engagement for instance- and when does it become a detractor from
> >the learning and the knowledge acquisition and use? i design for
> >student to use information learned in virtual worlds to be used to
> >solve real world problems--- as a result i think this process
> >should also be studied in relation to the design of the learning
> >environment and the goals of the learners- i am also currently
> >completing an article on using CHAT to understand online
> >problem-based learning-
> >
> >i am also a member of the virtual instructor pilot research group-
> >we are meeting in january RL as a result of an NSF grant- -- we are
> >looking at defining the characteristics of tutors/ mentors/ guides
> >in 3-D virtual environments- including how the virtual instructor
> >characteristics impact the learner responses -
> >
> >i would also appreciate any ideas about meeting at gaming
> >conferences or a new v-CHAT collaboration process --
> >
> >donna
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
> >Assistant Professor
> >Instructional Technology
> >Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
> >School of Education
> >University of Missouri-Kansas City
> >(email)
> >(website)
> >(cell) 314.210.6996
> >
> >Hi Mike.
> >
> >Linden Labs (Second Life) gave me a semester free trial for the whole
> >class. I eventually just sucked it up and bought an island (very
> >expensive, but I run the doctoral program and buried the cost for the
> >initial set-up and coaxed the masters degree program into splitting
> >the monthlies). Since then, the grad. biz school (not to be outdone
> >by Harvard) has decided it wants to look at using Second Life because
> >of all the RMT stuff, I think (real money transactions). I asked them
> >if they'd pony up so we could buy a bigger island. Membership in SL
> >is free, but to build you need land, and land costs money (clever).
> >Perhaps we could be more consortium-oriented in our dealings and
> >invite other institutions as well. How about an XMCA island? Our
> >Masters students recently had Daniel Pink come visit to view the
> >projects they had constructed in response to his book, A Whole New
> >Mind. My doctoral class had the pleasure of a visit last semester, in
> >SL, with MIchele Knoble and Colin Lankshear, as we were finishing up
> >their text, New literacies: Changing knowledge and classroom learning.
> >
> >Because SL can be quite raunchy, and because I'm at an extremely
> >conservative institution, I decided to keep the island "off the grid"
> >so to speak. You have to be invited there. Students can always roam
> >about anywhere in SL they wish, of course. I've only formally taken
> >them out to the New Media Consortium site during the wonderful couple
> >of weeks of invited speakers and clever activities they sponsored
> >last semester.
> >
> >Now...MMOs...a little different story. WoW (World of Warcraft) is
> >$48 start up for an account (think: lab fee), I think, and $16/mo
> >roughly (less than the cost of a movie date once a month). I "m not
> >above requiring that, but I don't require it, partly because I'm not
> >willing to take heat from my institution just yet. I have a subset of
> >doctoral students interested in gaming, specifically MMO type games,
> >and they have chosen to join me into WoW. We hve been there more than
> >a year now. Some were already EVE or Everquest veterans. Of course,
> >one of my doc students totally decimated my safe haven when he shared
> >in class, the famous YouTube video of the Onyxia wipe (a large group
> >effort gone bad) in which the raid master uses the F word about every
> >other word. =sigh= Oh well, I"m tenured.
> >
> >I have been talking with Sasha about jumping a class into Quest
> >Atlantis, which Sasha bills as an MMO, but which is an explicitly
> >educational framework, as is Whyville. I think that makes it different.
> >
> >Constance et al have a researcher guild on a PVP WoW server. Doctoral
> >students and researchers can join by nomination. There is an
> >associated private blog/site that often (not always) is about theory,
> >research, and observations about learning in WoW and to some extent
> >other games.
> >
> >In the MacArthur web portal there is a terrific thread of discussion,
> >still available I believe, on gaming, led by Katie Salen. It is
> >accessible for viewing. I think the discussion has officially closed.
> >
> >I would direct you to our research blog, but the guild in which my
> >students and I play (*not* a researcher guild, mostly JPFs) is in the
> >midst of some "guild emo" (drama, emo = emotion) and the language is
> >not PG rated as we all reflect on the situation we see going on (yet
> >again). Talk about communities and tension...whew...makes the
> >butchers, midwives, doctors, and artifical intell workers look civil
> >and tame. LOL.
> >
> >Mike, come to Games, Learning, & Society in Madison in June. It's a
> >great high touch conference.
> >
> >Perhaps we should all get our classes or doc'l students together
> >virtually, if not IRL (in real life).
> >
> >Hope the jargon isn't too thick in this posting. I'm rushing because
> >I"m still finishing the syllabus for the class that starts tomorrow.
> >=grin=
> >
> >Linda
> >
> >ps - the games/literacy class will next occur in Fall '07.
> >
> >
> >On Jan 3, 2007, at 3:27 PM, Mike Cole wrote:
> >
> > > Linda & Jay--
> > >
> > > What do you do about teaching using costly mmogs to large classes?
> > > Its a practical question we face and I assume others do as well.
> > >
> > > Donna is using Second Life. Same question!!
> > > mike
> > >
> > > On 1/3/07, Linda Polin <> wrote:
> > >>
> > >> Funny, last term I had revised a class similarly. (Are you playing in
> > >> Terror Nova, Jay?). Anyhow...I would also recommend the last third of
> > >> TL Taylor's book, Play Between Worlds.
> > >>
> > >> On Jan 3, 2007, at 2:51 PM, Jay Lemke wrote:
> > >>
> > >> >
> > >> > I have been away for a while, and too busy to participate much in
> > >> > xmca lately, but noticed this message today. You might have a look
> > >> > at a draft of a research proposal on my website
> > >> > [click on New Additions to get to the
> > >> link]
> > >> >
> > >> > It proposes comparing learning affordances and their uptake by
> > >> > users in commercial computer games and in educational software.
> > >> > There are references to several projects currently trying to make
> > >> > virtual learning environments in the mold of multiplayer games, and
> > >> > there is great promise in a social approach (guilds in online
> > >> > gameworlds, studied by Steinkuehler at Wisconsin; Whyville, studied
> > >> > by Yasmin Kafai at UCLA, etc.).
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website. <>
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
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