The first weekend of May, I begin teaching a fully on-line course called Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds. On alternate weeks the class will meet synchronously in Second Life. In between we will work together asynchronously in the course management system Moodle. The course is a 13 week, 3 credit, graduate level, education course offered by Marlboro College Graduate Center in Brattleboro, Vermont. I anticipate my students will come from all over Vermont and hope some come from other parts of the US. (Wouldn't it be great if we got a couple people from overseas?)
So as I make my preparations, I ask the question what makes for a good learning environment.
For a distance course, we have a nice blend of the asynchronous and the synchronous - at least that is the hope. Through moodle activities we will use writing for that deep reflection and discussion that occurs in online forums. Through SL we will have opportunities to meet, get to know, work together in real time.
We will have a chance to explore if virtual presence has an impact on student satisfaction in an otherwise distance course.
Virtual Classroom Space
Sure I will use the occasional slide show. Though I hate voice, I will use it to give instructions to my students at least at the outset. But I refuse to turn second life into a traditional classroom. It is more than a replacement for the bricks and mortar classroom. It offers the potential for things not doable in a traditional classroom. But what?
Just for fun I made a set of 1940s attached bench/desks. We will play at me standing at the blackboard. But this is just my twisted self pushing on our tendency to replicate Real Life in Second Life.
Next in the works is a spaceship command center, where we will take turns being in control.
With my building buddy Entropy Hax, I have created two voting floors. What you ask? Early on I want my students moving their avatars through virtual space, interacting with others. The idea is I ask a series of questions. Avatars move to the segment of the floor that fits their response. The first one is a Likert scale. The floor is divided into 5 sections each corresponding to one of the following: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree. The second is a three-circle Venn diagram. Responses will lead avatars to one of the circles or their overlapping segments. A yet to be created set of cushions will be used to stand and sit for yes/no questions. I haven't mentioned the content of the questions, or what we will do with the information. My point is that I want to explore how virtual action contributes to learning. Initially we will be using these activities among other things to get to know each other and to practice basic movements.