Research - Getting Started

Issue: How can a teacher or students get started in virtual worlds when they are so different that it takes a large investment in time?

Virtual worlds are a very different kind of learning environment - particularly for those who have not played immersive games involving the use of avatars.

Advice about how to get started in a virtual world is varied but some common suggestions are
  • visit a virtual world for the first time with someone who can introduce you to its basic features and alert you to potential pitfalls
  • explore and play in a virtual world before thinking about using it with students for learning
  • visit virtual worlds which have well developed educational communities, help videos and documentation
  • try out virtual worlds and resources purposely built to meet particular learning outcomes
See Getting Started in Second Life or Getting Started in Reaction Grid
Basic video help (SL Viewer 1.23) Second Life Help (New Viewer)

Some methods for facilitating new teachers using virtual worlds with their classes
  • arrange for an experienced teacher to take the class while the class teacher participates as a learner
  • arrange for an experienced facilitator to join the class 'in-world' to help students
  • encourage students to assist each other - some usually find it easier than others
  • produce some quick 'how to' screencasts for students (eg using Jing, Screenr, Camtasia) and look online for many that already exist (eg YouTube)
  • allow students time to A) Personalise their avatar B) Learn to interact with the virtual environment C) Learn to interact with other avatars

Getting started in an educational institution
Accessing a virtual world in an educational institution often requires more than just installing a client and registering for an account. ICT, admin and management support is often required as well as collaboration with colleagues. Engaging key stakeholders with information, research and stories about why virtual worlds might be used within the organisation can be an important step. Without 'buy-in' from key people in an organisation progress is likely to be slow.

Educational Uses for Virtual Worlds

Australian Networks of Educators using virtual worlds

Further Reading

Virtual worlds - Learning in a changing world
by Judy O'Connell and Dean Groom

Emergence of virtual worlds
Learning in the metaverse
Tools and techniques
Making the transition

Recommendations for possible Guidelines/Standards

  • Consider starting slowly and learning with students.
  • Use the extensive range of existing help documentation and videos found online.
  • Identify and encourage students who can help others as early as possible.
  • Encourage students to source or produce their own help documentation.
  • Consider producing quick 'how to' screen captures customised for local needs.
  • Join a learning network with other educators using virtual worlds.
  • Allow time for play within a structured learning plan.