Issues explored in the technology trial

Key issues that were explored from a standards and strategy point of view are

§ Internet access (bandwidth and data volume, firewalls, security and safety policies)
§ Virtual world services or installations (initial and ongoing costs, reliability, backup, helpdesk service)
§ Hardware/Software (browser/client choices, operating systems, minimum hardware requirements, voice communication)
§ User access (on/off campus, regional access, national and international collaboration, user guidelines)
§ Learning artefacts and education resources (import/export, transferability)
§ Assessment (recording/capturing text, audio, video)
§ Seamless integration (hyper-grids, age restrictions, privacy/security)

This project sought to inform the development of standards or guidelines for the use of virtual worlds as a reliable and widely accessible learning environment for teachers and students.

Within our organisation there is a growing interest in using immersive learning environments and a number of individual projects in various virtual worlds have been completed in the last few years. From an institutional perspective the relative merits of different virtual world services, installations and their interoperability needs to be mapped and a coherent strategy developed so that students and teachers can clearly see how virtual worlds may be reliably and flexibly used in their learning and for assessment. For this to be effective we need to explore what standards may be necessary to increase student and teacher access, improve virtual world reliability and facilitate the import and export of learning artefacts and teaching resources from one virtual world to another.

The project sought to answer these questions by building on previous virtual world project experience while engaging with current virtual project teams to explore the potential for some standardisation in the implementation of virtual worlds for learning and an emerging common understanding of issues faced by learners, teachers and assessors.