I’ve been busy this week working with Jo Kay developing a Second Life build for Macquarie University. As part of the ongoing ‘innovation to integration’ research, the MQ teaching and learning centre has joined Jokaydia. An extension to the capability of the learning and teaching centre it will serve as a classroom for educators wishing to explore Second Life. The build will also be used as a practical venue for distributed staff to meet and work.
I arrived at MQ just as the Learning and Teaching Centre was developing its 2009/10 strategic plan, so it’s been a busy few weeks trying to get up to speed and working with so many passionate educators and meet an end of year deadline. I am really impressed that in adding this element to the centre’s operations, that I really didn’t have to go through the ‘why don’t you get a first life’, ‘is it a game?’ conversations. I wasn’t quite expecting that or the depth of understanding already of Virtual Worlds. Everyone recognised these are an important technology in educational development research. It has been fully supported and very easy to deliver (mostly thanks to working with Jo). So in just over a week, the centre is ready for our first professional development session next Monday.
MQ already runs a successful iLecture system in many classrooms, deliverying recorded audio content to students which continues to grow, and will begin testing of video-lectures in 2009. The LTC has Elluminate, Adobe Connect and Elluminate as core technology offerings – Second Life however was missing from the ‘set’. It is interesting that once you talk about Second Life, all sorts of people come out from the shadows and say that they have been investigating or un-officially ‘doing something’, something which was echoed at the recent Open Education Workshops, where many presenters said that their now successful projects started life in-secret.
MQ on Jokaydia has two spaces, a practical resource, information and teaching ‘building’ and a second area, which the University can use, as a collaborative space. The aim is to allow students and staff to have a workable and sizeable space in which to develop anything that supports learning and teaching. We talked about developing an ‘island’, but felt that the nature of Second Life is as an synchronous, interactive first person experience – rather than a visual statement. I have been part of the Jokaydia community for some time, and so know just how engaging and inspirational some of the work has been. The professional development opportunities are created through the community engagement on Jokaydia – so placing MQ students and staff into the community to me is significantly richer than just wandering around your own island or occasionally running a symposium.
In 2009, the MQ space will also be connected with student and staff support mechanisms, together with a series of symposiums that I’m working on as face to face events (open to all), webinars etc., In addition, we are going to explore connecting Podcast content in-world. It will then be possible to ‘stream’ content on demand into the classrooms. This then allows students to meet and discuss the lectures – which is particularly important to MQs on-going focus on student engagement, given the vast number of students that are enrolled in distance education though various study pathways such as Open Education.
This facility will assist staff and students in exploring the multiple opportunities and impacts that ‘first person’ experiences has in learning and teaching – all supported by the amazing Jo Kay.