Slide Show Presented at the CUNY gaming conference in New York City via distance with the assistance of Professor Mark Lewis.
The Best Practices discussion will include an educational game-play prototype and educator resources as well as content examples to demonstrate how socially-networked learning environments in a three dimensional virtual world and gamification in the virtual world can be beneficial for distance learners and education applications. The main focus for this paper will be a “Best Practices” discussion with a question and answer session in world. During live events technical issues are always a possibility. This is especially true with participants who have never interacted with the technology before. Back up systems can be put in place that allow for participation through other means. This could be a simultaneous meeting in Skype or zoom to combat any sound or access issues. Even live streaming on Youtube may be an option.
The short discussion on Best Practices can be proceeded or followed by individual exploration. The independent walk about will consist of game features and curriculum examples. Guidance may be provided through live in-world chat and voice if pre-scheduled. The participants will likely be educators who are exploring virtual worlds and looking for resources and best practices. Participants may enter the virtual world via a pre-made avatar through a virtual world viewer such as Firestorm or use their own avatar. They can also customize their avatar with freebies offered on site.The participants will need to have some experience in the virtual world and be comfortable with all basic movement and navigational tools. For those who are not, resources will be made available to other virtual worlds designed with tutorials and tips on these functions.
Preparation for users who have never entered a virtual world is extensive. In a complete pilot program creating your own content to teach students how to use the technology and navigate the tool is ideal however lots of resources exist to help beginners learn how to navigate virtual worlds. Providing links and resources, even when created by others and giving the necessary credit is a viable option. An online resource to get started is the Virtual World Survival Guide (Marie, E. 2016) It is a course designed by another virtual world group. Also creating a support website and support documents or links to other support documents and websites created by third parties is beneficial in the preparation aspect of a a full pilot. Even in considering an educator’s help guide, important information for educators were found in the actual kitely.com website under terms and conditions and privacy. Another important resource is the educators commons on OSGRID and social sites online by this and other groups. By making this information easily accessible within the learning environment I am reducing unnecessary duplication of resources.
The game design itself is very simple for teachers to implement with students of all ages. The goal is to have the student engage in the activities, be rewarded by tokens that can earn free objects in world, avoid obstacles and traps that will slow progress or remove tokens, and earn prizes or earn points by taking quizzes. Subject matter can be placed in-world in slideshows, text, displays, video and note-cards inside objects or spoken via voice files or text by NPCs. The tokens earned can then be redeemed to purchase special in world items, thus motivating the student to participate further. Added exploration, such as finding other freebies and surprises as you explore, (in the moon base example, finding aliens, avoiding spaceships etc), and interacting all add to the motivational factor.
Being supervised if the student is younger also aids in reducing the complexity of having to learn the tools. For the actual project and pilot, those choosing to participate with no prior virtual world experience will need to prepare in advance or be willing to have an online virtual meeting within the world to gain the one to one support needed for beginners and be directed to the vast resources available from other educators and world owners from around the OpenSim community.
Virtual worlds allow for synchronous and asynchronous learning activities as demonstrated by Dr. Kay McLennon through the Educators Commons and the Open Simulator Community Conference (OSCC), which I hope to demonstrate in the Best Practices discussion by engaging with those who participate. The Best Practices discussion is a first step in the process when introducing the environment or its potential to educators. This can be done through voice or text and once the technological aspect is learned the participants can then explore independently.
The pilot is built in the virtual world using opensource objects not for commercial use and open source scripts not for commercial use. Also used is objects built from scratch by me, and a few objects built by a 9 year old. Objects built in the virtual word can be used for commercial use and even sold for virtual money to be used in the open sim community or actual money. For these purposes I have chosen to keep my creations CC (Creative Commons) BA (Attribution) NC (Non Commercial)SA (Share Alike) Discussing choices like this and educating the participants is an example of some of the topics that can be discussed in the Best Practices discussion. Prepared slide shows on various example topics can be placed in-world and used as needed depending on the participants interests.
The Space maze is a simple game where you enter a maze of moving stars, navigate to quizzes to win cool space themed prizes, stop along the way for a dance party, find aliens, avoid spaceships, take a 3d photo of yourself, and other surprises. At the end of the maze players will find space craft rides, obstacle courses and scavenger hunts for more aliens. The avatars used in game play are able to be customized and with the space theme you can win space suits and accessories to further customize your avatar. You can even become an alien or robot with other space themed avatars as prizes. These rewards can be won through short quizzes or trivia. An example of an adapted open source quiz/trivia script is provided. Video walk through of the area will also be provided for independent viewing. It can be visited online in Kitely as it is an open world by opening a compatible viewer and entering the world through the website https://www.kitely.com/virtual-world/Salie-Davis/Multiverse-Masters . Though the Space Math Maze and quiz boards are currently set up with math questions it can be tailored for general trivia or any subject matter, or just for fun.
The benefit of interactive virtual world learning is situated cognition, simply stated that knowing is not able to be separated from doing. One theory I connect this with is the concept and application of backwards design in education. Backwards design is goal driven learning, essentially project based learning where you have a final goal in mind. In backwards design you start with the end result, the goal, and then explain to the participants the steps they need to take to achieve this goal. This is in line with gamification and game-based learning and can be used as a motivational tool that will bring them a personal sense of achievement and deeper understanding of the value of knowledge in accomplishing a goal. Research has shown that “…games show higher learning gains than simulations…” (Merchant et al 2014).
Cognitive learning that is interdisciplinary and project based can also enhance the engagement of participants. “The assumption underlying the rapid rise in the use of desktop-based virtual reality technology in instruction is the unique affordance that it offers in enhancing learners’ cognitive skills” (Merchant et al (2014). Beyond simply teaching a subject, through immersion experiences applicable concepts are learned that deepen understanding. Students experience situated learning when they learn through actual application of skills to achieve the set goals. It is more than just having a full understanding of the material presented in the discussion; it also requires knowing the techniques needed to apply the concepts in their own designs. The reason project based learning is effective in the cognitive modeling process is that the learner is able to see the end goal and then through the process of and steps presented in order to create the project, the student comes to a cognitive understanding of how the knowledge learned is applied in a real world scenario. The reason this works is because each project can be tailored to the learning level of the audience in order to teach the learning standards required for their level. With online virtual world customization, the benefit exists to tailor the world for specific participant needs.
During the event, the primary gauge of successful implementation will be the questions and answer session’s level of participation. This is observational evaluation by the presenter. After the event feedback or return visits from participants to explore the content discussed can be monitored and evaluated. The event can be recorded through the use of screencastomatic or Zoom with the permission of participants for individual evaluation of content effectiveness or sharing on social media to expand the reach of the content and goals. Contact information and follow up surveys can be provided to encourage self evaluation, for example asking the participant if they were able to apply the concepts and best practices discussed to their own projects. It is also possible to “poll” participants through messaging them via the kitely messaging system. Reaching out to participants for feedback will help determine if they were able to navigate the virtual world and find all the resources available when visiting before or after the discussion, and if the signage and NPC directions were adequately designed to guide participants to the different areas. Separate tracking monitors will show which areas of the virtual world is most visited. This will help determine if the majority of visitors prefer the educators resources, the gaming environment or the sandbox area. Three separate message devices, two drop boxes for “mail” and one for text message recording will allow for feedback from participants and also signify which areas attract the most participants.
The Best Practices discussion will serve as an overview for educators who have not yet considered the use of virtual worlds for educational games. The focus will be on expanding the participants knowledge to move beyond the concept of the virtual world as a simulated environment alone, into an interactive game-based space using scripting in objects and gaming concepts to engage students and encourage active learning. I will be using examples in virtual world game play that are designed to instruct the educator on possible uses of the virtual world environment to enrich the learning experience of students. This will incorporate educator resources, examples and game play prototypes. The goal will be to encouraging transactional discussion with a short overview and “Best Practices” and a question and answer session. Independent exploration of resources and the examples will be done before or after the Best Practices discussion at the participants leisure.
The virtual world environment is an under utilized resource by educators in the creation, exploration, and effective use of Game-Based Learning (GBL) in distance and education. The research has shown “… a significant gap between teachers’ perceptions of the importance of integrating technology and their classroom use of these skills.” (p. 111, Carver, 2016) The virtual world can be designed to be an immersive environment requiring movement and social interaction with the instructor and other participants to encourage active learning. The incorporation of games and gamification through prototype exploration and testing will demonstrate the benefit of incorporating game-based learning in higher education to engage students. Game play in simulated environments encourage active learning in the three step phase of observation, doing and reflection and has proven to be more effective in knowledge retention. Game-based learning activities can create authentic experiences which have been proven to shorten the time requirement and increase the retention of material. Virtual worlds can be designed to create immersive and authentic environments in ways that commercial games can’t.
Educators have the ability to customize the game to better serve student needs. In addition avatar interaction in a three dimensional world increases the level of attentiveness and participant engagement. Virtual worlds are identified as supporting collaborative learning and social interaction increases productive learning. Research overwhelmingly supports the benefits of learning in immersive virtual worlds for students of all ages. “The contemporary notion of learning environments recognizes that meaningful, active learning takes place in complex, multi-model environments in which the learner plays an active role in constructing knowledge” (p. 2, Dickey, 2010). Research shows that 3D virtual worlds supported “…exploration of identity, community and personal representation.” (p. 3 Dickey, 2010) In addition, though not fully immersive compared to virtual reality rooms and glasses, “… desktop-based 3D virtual environments … (are) shown to enhance learners’ engagement” (Merchant 2014). “Research has indicated that technology can increase student motivation, attitude, engagement and self-confidence, while improving organization and study skills.” (p. 110, Carver, 2016)
Especially for distance learners in education, the virtual world environment offers a viable solution to facilitate and enhance active participation through game-based learning. The inexpensive solution that virtual environments offer educators is a concept that needs to be explored, understood by participants and then shared with colleagues.
Carver, L. B. (2016). Teacher Perception of Barriers and Benefits in K-12 Technology Usage. Turkish Online Journal Of Educational Technology – TOJET, 15(1), 110-116. Retrieved on April 15, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1086185
Dickey, M. D. (2011). The pragmatics of virtual worlds for K-12 educators: investigating the affordances and constraints of Active Worlds and Second Life with K-12 in-service teachers. Educational Technology Research And Development, (1), 1. Retrieved on Dec, 2017, from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=701fa5b8-b55b-4784-9597-e3a821c56084%40sessionmgr4009
McLennan, K. founder of the Educators Commons. (2017). Help guide for educational virtual open source. OSgrid Wright Plaza. Retrieved on Dec, 2017 from and accessible through Virtual World Viewer at https://OSgrid/region/Wright%20Plaza/207/30/21
McLennan, K. , Opensimulator Conference (2017) Presentation and talk. Dec 10, 2017 at http://conference.opensimulator.org/2017/ Slides accessible at https://tulane.app.box.com/s/hev3iverk9zcs7jiooa5fcbhyet4pxoi
Marie, Evie, Virtual World Survival Guide, (2016) retrieved from, http://inspiration-island.com/educational-projects/virtual-world-survival-guide/
Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 7029-40. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.033. Retrieved on Dec, 2017, from http://resolver.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/openurl?sid=EBSCO%3aedselp&genre=article&issn=03601315&ISBN=&volume=70&issue=&date=20140101&spage=29&pages=29-40&title=Computers+&atitle=Effectiveness+of+virtual+reality-based+instruction+on+students%27+learning+outcomes+in+K-12+and+higher+education%3a+A+meta-analysis&aulast=Merchant%2c+Zahira&id=DOI%3a10.1016%2fj.compedu.2013.07.033&site=ftf-live
Game Play Example provided as an online resource.
The second presentation and live discussion segment.