Friday, September 4, 2009

Designing learning resources and activities in Second Life

Here are some more of my thoughts about my experiences designing the normal birth scenario and learning activities for midwifery students in the Second Life Education New Zealand project.

What are the key factors influencing the design of MUVE educational environments?
I would say that the main key was to keep things as simple as possible, aiming for the slowest common denominator ie aiming your activities to students who have minimal skills and low Internet bandwidth.
  • Make the learning activity fun and social.
  • Think about how you can provide learning opportunities for students who cannot (for whatever reason) access Second Life.
  • Provide thorough orientation and ongoing support for students and educators.
  • Ensure the resources and activities have 'value' for the student, that they aren't just 'nice' to do, but are integrated into the education program and based on learning outcomes and objectives.
My mantra for design of learning activities in Second Life for midwifery, nursing and medical students is:

"Authentic, but safe"

What do you think could have been done better in the design and development of the programme(s) in SL?
This is a difficult question to answer without hearing from the students and what they think. I would say the major mistake was not integrating the scenario into the midwifery program ie getting student to use it in lesson time. However, I am confident that once the students understand what can be achieved, they will see the value of it and use it voluntarily and in their 'own time'.

The other assumption we made that didn't pan out was that students would orientate themselves and get the hang of things with minimal 'real time' support and help. In fact, I found that students required far more one-on-one support and help than we had allowed for. I found that students responded far more positively when I was present to give instructions and show them what to do - they very rarely read any instructions that we wrote for them.

What do you think was done well?
I believe what we did really well is design the normal birth scenario on real life situations using professional midwifery standards and teaching resources to ensure everything was authentic, down to the feedback the woman gives the midwife. The scenario is interactive and social, and because it is open to all there is the potential for communication and collaboration beyond the immediate class.

What advice would you give another group wanting to produce an excellent MUVE educational experience?
I am repeating myself with some of these points, but I think that doesn't do any harm to keep emphasizing them.
  • Provide in-depth orientation and ongoing support as students get the hang of what they're supposed to be doing.
  • Keep things simple, social and interactive.
  • Allow twice as long for the development work as you think you're going to need.
  • Think about how you're going to motivate both educators and students to use the resource/experience.

If you were a student, what would motivate you to use Second Life for learning?

Image: learn
Mark Brannan

1 comment:

Sarah Stewart said...

I should also have put that I think it's vital that the designer is immersed in SL so he/she fully understands what can and can't be done both technically and pedagogically. And a mentor who is an experienced SL user is also a very important person to be in contact with...for designer, educator and students.