Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Spring 2008 snapshot of UK educational activity in SL now available

The second in our series of three snapshots of UK higher and further education activities in Second Life is now available. This is significantly longer than the previous snapshot(s), reflecting a growth in the level of use and development around Second Life.

The snapshots have been funded by the Eduserv Foundation and undertaken by John Kirriemuir (Silversprite Helsinki). As John notes in the introduction:
The number of UK academics who are developing or operating teaching and learning resources in Second Life (SL) has grown rapidly in the last year. While an accurate figure is difficult to determine (partially due to the non-public nature of some developments), as a rough estimate some three-quarters of UK universities are actively developing or using SL, at the institutional, departmental and/or individual academic level. Of these, many institutions support several ongoing SL developments, often involving groups of people rather than individuals. However, the proportion of UK FE institutions actively using SL was much smaller.
75% of UK universities is a pretty significant proportion - though, of course, the range of activities and level of investment that represents is very variable:
Academics described a very wide range of SL activities spanning teaching, learning, research, performance, construction and demonstration. The key advantage of SL in teaching and learning is that there are many activities in which the student must be more than a passive learner in order to progress. The student has to develop “stuff”, collaborate and participate. Before these can occur, he or she has to master a new and transferable skill set, meaning that, in SL, learning is done more by participating and doing than by listening and absorbing.

Though use of SL in UK HE/FE is growing, many academics are not “welded” to it, being aware of its deficiencies and open to moving to alternative virtual environments, especially open source and more localised versions, in the future.

Overall, and perhaps not surprisingly, the three most mentioned requirements of UK academic
SL developers are:
  • more funding opportunities
  • more time to develop
  • better technical facilities within SL, or a viable alternative environment.

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