How to assess international spys

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DISTANCE students in an International Security course at Macquarie University are about to play games. The are playing the roles of people who might potentially be making some of very important ones for real. It seems that the chances are, many conversations will happen over great distance as well as in the conference room. While on campus students can role-play their assessment in the comfort of the super-secret high tech lair, those distance students might have previously been given some alternative task. No fun in that, so now there is a weekly task held in world with their teacher.

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Second Life is incredibly flexible in assessment of this kind. The course designer can create a ‘shared reality’ by role-playing and facilitating an engaging environment for the students. Progressively over a two weeks; students have waded into virtual worlds – using online resources. The space is designed to be a ‘three click deal’. As they enter the space; they are automatically given note cards.

  1. Click to arrive in-world in a realistic room with simple props. An automated note card pops up to give the student instructions on what to do next. It logs their attendance automatically with time and date.
  2. Click the folder on the desk, marked top-secret. It provides some tips on effective role-play and presentation, so there is additional motivation to get some extra help that is normally shared or observed in physical space but not online.
  3. Click to sit in the chair, read the briefing – and the assessment is recorded in real time; then given back to the student so they can reflect on their performance after grading. They are given a notecard at the end of the session with further reading and instructions in the main MQ building via a landmark and leave.
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The instructional design for this was developed using simple storyboards in Apple Pages; and gradually we explored and expanded on the functionality and environment needed to bring absolute newcomers into a virtual world and undertake a very real assessment task. Each week, the students will get watch a video briefing from SL (we film them all in 15 mins in one session). So far, this has been met with real enthusiasm by the distance students and will be interesting to evaluate. In getting the solution for the students, the teacher has had to do some work too – and already has forgotten about trying to using …. I can’t say too much more …. I hear footsteps heading my way.

One thought on “How to assess international spys

  1. I love the way you are taking your time, preparing the students and documenting what they will do so it is possible to assess their progress. I recently watched an instructor think she could drop a whole class into SL and have them complete a rather complicated project with no help. Needless to say, it resulted in great frustration and the decision not to continue offering classes in SL. Your project seems like it may be an excellent role-model to point people toward and help them avoid this kind of situation.

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