A Second Life to Connect

I had the opportunity to be shown around both Second Life  Adobe Connect yesterday. I think there is potential in SL, but, how complicated it comes across as! I think the potential technical issues associated with having a class learnings on SL for the first time would put them off. I like technology but, boy, did it come across as complicated. Participants need to haveaccess to a reasonably new computer. Perhaps because we were being an overview of what it potentially could too I was getting TMI. I think it is a great (and free) tool where learners in dispersed locations can meet up and chat synchronously. It offers affordances that  synchronous chat such as Skype can’t. I like the fact that you can move, do things with your hands, see who you are talking too (avatar), interact with the environment; you get a sense of immediacy (Woods & Baker, 2004) . You can also be your alter ego in the form of your avatar which might encourage shier learners to participant. I suppose you shouldn’t think of it as trying to replicate F2F communication or as an alternative to DTVC; it is something in its own right and I can see the potential for teaching, but it would take quite a bit of time to develop the skills needed to teach/learn in SL.

I was instantly impressed by Adobe Connect – by far the best DTVC tool I’ve come across. Just being able to see all the faces of my fellow students (for first time) and tutor via video really helped me feel connected to them; there was a real sense of immediacy. There were breakout rooms to facilitate group work. There are various “pods” where the teacher can poll the students, present documents, use a whiteboard and assign learners to breakout rooms with tasks for that particular group to undertake. There was very little delay between the sound and image and the quality of both was excellent. There were 6 of us altogether so it was easy to see all the participants via video. If there were 10, 12 or more students the size of the video images would be reduced so that they could all fit in the video pod. So far, the closest to a F2F classroom that I’ve come across. This would be an ideal tool to have at the beginning of an online course as it really facilitates the building of a community of learners, connectedess and social presence.


9 Responses to A Second Life to Connect

  1. Aileen says:

    Wondered whether there were any further differences between Adobe Connect and Wimba apart from being able to see multiple users synchronously. Looking at the Adobe website wasn’t that helpful but this NIU blog provides a comparison.

  2. Hi Aileen

    Things you can do in Connect but not in Wimba (I think):

    You can put people together in breakout rooms.
    Assign separate tasks to those groups.
    Presenter can join each of breakout groups to monitor / participant in discussion
    Set up a questionnaire to get immediate feedback on a task.
    Connect just feels better to use and looks more professional than Wimba

    • It’s possible to create breakout groups in Wimba, too – but I haven’t used this as extensively as in Adobe Connect (which I used quite a bit last semester – and in previous years, when it was called Macromedia Breeze). I’m not sure about whether there is a questionnaire (or “poll”) in Wimba – I’d have to take another look.

      In any case, it’s useful to get this feedback about Connect feeling like a F2F class. I have to agree that the sense of visual immediacy that you get from seeing people nodding as you speak is one of the key advantages of seeing different people’s webcams simultaneously.

      On Second Life, you’re right that it’s complicated and takes a bit of effort to get familiar with it. As you say, you were being given a demo which risked having “too much information” – have you taken more of a look around in your own time since then, perhaps guided by the week 9 materials?

  3. Breege Loftus says:

    Second Life is a wonderful tool! The problem is that most tutors don’t utilise the unique “affordances” of Second life when giving a lesson or a tour. I used Second Life for an assignment for a previous assignment. A group of us presented a lesson to the class. I really enjoyed it. What I learned from this experience is the secret of using Second Life is doing it in groups. It is more fun to explore and try things out in groups. I see great possibilities for this tool, but it will take a different way of thinking, when planning the lesson.

    • Hi Breege

      Was the assignment for the Teaching & Learning Online course?
      I’d be intersted to hear what your views on the affordances of SL are.

      • Breege says:

        We used it for the Teaching and learning Online course. A group of us (5) located in five different destinations (from Hong Kong to Ireland, 3 long distant, 3 on site) delivered an exploration lesson to be used as part of an ESL lesson.
        We did a quick slide presentation, each of focused on different areas of SL. We composed the show together I think in Google Docs and then imported it into a screen we just built in the sandbox.
        We then presented it to our class again spread over many countries.
        After the presentation, we divided our class into groups and we all took them to different locations all linked to the four seasons (spring, autumn, winter and summer) and explored our areas and took pictures. It really was great fun. After 10 minutes we returned to the sand box . The feedback was very positive as it was the first time most students really got to explore and do things in SL that can really streach your imagination.
        Last year I used the “sistine chaple” in SL as my museum visit. The likeness to the real thing is pretty close. It allowed me to view the paintings from different angles, I could fly up to the top and get to see all the paintings ( which I couldn’t do in real life). I could sit in the roof and look at the floor design, which I would never get to appreciate in real life. I also got to view rear tapestries that are not always on view in real time/life.
        For me, it is a facinating tool, but to really appreciate what it has to offer, it is best to explore with company. It really is great fun!
        We did all our meetings in SL and it is really interesting how civilised we were. We all sat on chairs and when we bumped into each other, we apologised.

      • James Baggesen says:

        Hi Breege

        Thank you for sharing your insights. They really are useful.

  4. Aileen Silver says:

    Sounds as though Connect may have the edge then. The opportunity for breakout groups stands out for me as an advantage – I suppose the nearest I have experienced to this in a Wimba session was in the DET session where Drew had us discuss topics in BB, although text discussions are often quite different from the vocal variety.
    Breege’s experience of Second Life sounds interesting too. Did you use this in an assignment for MA:DTCE Breege or elsewhere?

  5. Breege, thanks very much for writing up your experiences of Second Life. I really like the idea of flying off into breakout groups to a specific location, and then coming back to report on what you had found. You broke out into groups related to seasons – but we could think of so many ‘themes’, places, or times from history which could be used to direct individual groups to.

    I also think it’s good advice to try this exercise as a group activity. This adds the element of support to a technology which many people find disorienting or even disconcerting at first. There are often people who will help us get oriented anyway, but it makes sense for this support to be built into the learning activity. (However, how do we match this up with distance learners in different timezones, who may find it difficult to coordinate?)

    Breege, has this experience inspired you to further use SL in your teaching?

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