Research - Policy

Issue: What new policies are needed for staff and students to use virtual worlds?
This issue has the potential to delay the implementation of virtual worlds for learning by weeks or months.
An institution's response to this issue will depend on the nature of existing ICT and Duty of Care policies.
Institutions that are working with students under 18 years of age (and even with adults) need to be aware that existing Internet filters do not filter content inside virtual worlds (nor do they usually filter content inside participative social web services). However, most service providers of virtual worlds of interest to educators have their own Terms of Service (ToS) that restrict 'adult only' content - particularly those virtual worlds with existing communities of educators. Reaction Grid for example stipulates a 'PG Rating ' in their ToS.

Some institutions with students aged 16 years and older require students to participate in induction sessions where potential issues of innappropriate content and how to deal with it are discussed. Other institutions with students under 18 years of age require parental permission forms and sometimes parental information sessions.

Some institutions may require a formal business plan with detailed risk analysis and mitigation strategies.

Some institutions require special ICT policies for the staff and student use of virtual worlds while others refer users to existing general ICT Acceptable Use Policies.

Some specific virtual world policies and guidelines

Further Reading

Dr Angela Thomas, University of Tasmania

Youth Online: Identity and Literacy in the Digital Age

Recommendations for possible Guidelines/Standards

  • Consider the possibility that existing ICT Acceptable Use Policy (and behaviour management policy) may be sufficient.
  • Induction sessions for staff and students are highly recommended - as are voluntary information sessions for parents of younger students.
  • Consider producing information sheets that address frequently asked questions.