This is a register of issues that have arisen as educators attempt to use virtual worlds for learning, teaching, assessment and communication. The focus of these issues is to increase reliability, reduce access issues and improve the interoperability of virtual worlds.


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Previous work on issues associated with using virtual worlds in education:

Issue
Possible solution(s)
Access: Firewalls
A complex process to open firewalls may be required.
This process takes time and ongoing access is susceptible to changes by multiple services providers.
A. Negotiate to open firewalls well ahead of time and stay informed of any changes in ICT and virtual world service provision.
B. Establish good relationships with ICT and virtual world service providers.
C. Consider using independent 3G wireless access while evaluating services for educational use.
D. Consider establishing a virtual world inside your firewall or even on local computers.
E. Consider using student access from home.
Research & Recommendations
Access: Bandwidth
Broadband speeds are generally required for a satisfactory user experience.
A. Consider the bandwidth required when setting up or choosing areas in virtual worlds - keep the number of prims and scripts down.
B. Reduce the requirement to travel to new areas in virtual worlds. Many educational tasks do not require much bandwidth once you have arrived at a site.
Research & Recommendations
Access: Voice
Some ICT services will not open the firewall to in-world voice communication due to security concerns.
A. Consider using Skype or alternative VOIP service if available.
B. Consider using voice from home if possible.
C. Some institutions use alternative proxy/Internet software to overcome security concerns with voice.
Research & Recommendations
Access: Costs
Initial and on-going costs.
A. Refer to cost comparisons
B. Commercial vs Open Source
Research & Recommendations
Access: Age of user
After December 2010 Second Life will be restricted to over 16s (currently over 18) with special educational access for 13-15 year olds. Teen Second Life for 13-17 years will be discontinued after Dec 2010.
A: Use alternative and appropriate virtual worlds with no age restrictions such as Reaction Grid.
B: Second Life has announced (14th Aug 2010) a new policy where Second Life will be open to those aged 16+ (implementation date after Dec 2010). This will greatly assist post year 10 educational institutions.
Hardware: Server Options
Hosting options
A. Hosted externally - refer to options
B. Hosted internally - pros and cons - costs
C. Hosted on USB memory - pros and cons
Research & Recommendations
Software: Client/Viewer choices
A range of clients are available for user access to virtual worlds.
Minimum hardware specifications are required for acceptable viewer performance. Increased hardware specifications are required for some tasks such as making in-world video (machinima) or design work involving fine detail.
A. A number of factors affect the choice of client. How are the client applications being deployed? What clients are being used at home? Which virtual worlds are being accessed? Is access to multiple grids required? What OS is being used? What are the hardware specifications? Is help documentation tailored for a particular client?
Research & Recommendations
Assessment: Capturing Evidence
How do students and assessors capture evidence for assessment?
A: There are a number of ways to record activity in virtual worlds
B: Be clear about learning processes and desired outcomes.
Research and Recommendations
Transferability: Backup & Importing/Exporting Objects
Objects: Some viewers allow owner created objects to be exported (back-up) from one world and imported to another. Note that copyright and Terms of Service rules apply. When importing at destination, check there is enough room and prim allocation, don't fly and include textures unless applying them manually.
Research & Recommendations
Implementation: Hypergrids
What are they and why use them?
Research & Recommendations
Implementation: Volatility and Investment of Resources
How much time is worth investing in immersive environments and supportive learning resources if they change or are superceded?
Research & Recommendations
Implementation: Getting Started
How can a teacher or students get started in virtual worlds when they are so different that it takes a large investment in time?
Research & Recommendations
Implementation: Policy
What new policies are needed for staff and students to use virtual worlds?
Research & Recommendations
Implementation: Pedagogy Which learning and teaching approaches suit virtual worlds?
Research and Recommendations