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Supporting education in virtual worlds with virtual learning environments – JISC (Second Life & Moodle)

The School of Medicine (Undergraduate Medicine) was successful in a bid on the Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The project was led by University of West Scotland and ran from July 2010 until June 2011.


Second Life screenshotProject aims and objectives

The aim of the project was to investigate the pedagogical opportunities offered by the integration of the administrative capabilities of a web-based virtual learning environment (Moodle VLE) and the presentation layer of virtual worlds (Second Life and/or OpenSim). By developing, evaluating and disseminating effective models of best practice (where little guidance currently exists), the project aims to promote this integrated approach for teaching and learning at multiple institutions.

The SLOODLE project is an integration of two such systems, and the project aims to study how the relative strengths of each system can be exploited and subsequently enhanced through the integration. It makes it possible to build immersive 3D settings around existing VLE content, and in turn use the VLE to provide greater accessibility to immersive content. There have been a small number of descriptive case-studies published on the use of SLOODLE, but these only begin to touch on the pedagogical possibilities and opportunities now available – in particular in light of recent developments in virtual world technology.


Project outcomes

There were prior claims on the benefits of using virtual worlds in teaching and learning and this was further supported by generally positive responses from students. The SLOODLE integration has been thoroughly tested and has proven to be a robust system in terms of reliability, security and performance. However, it is important not to underestimate the implementation of such a system into existing VLE systems. This type of integration can support enhanced formative and summative assessments, and allow tutors to track student progress and provide rapid feedback more easily than might be the case if the systems were not integrated.

The field of virtual worlds is rapidly developing but limitations do exist. One such limitation is the lack of rich avatar realism (body language, detailed gestures and/or expressions). It might not be suitable to use popular virtual worlds such as Second Life and OpenSim if rich avatar realism is required to benefit the teaching and learning. However, it’s worth noting that this field of study is still very young and development and research opportunities are without limit. Those who are interested in the use of this technology may indeed explore different approaches. Looking to the future, a key aspect in the adaptation of such technology is to develop good practical support for instructional design in education.


Partners

The project partners are:


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