SLeducate: a SL resource for educators, students and new users

One of the most common issues raised by virtual teachers in Second Life (SL) is how to get new students up to speed with the fundamentals. You know – walk, talk, navigate – that stuff. For those with little or no experience in 3D environments it’s not easy to pick up SL’s basics, however these are the skills that underpin everything we do in world. Needless to say a solid set of foundation competencies is vital to the success of any learning endeavour. The problem is that eradicating SL newbieness takes time – many would argue lots of time.

So opens a UWA blog post by Carmsie Melodie about a web-based resource she has put together which, while primarily aimed at the education sector, potentially has a broader reach when it comes to assisting those new to Second Life.

The SLeducate site, hosted by the University of Western Australia, essentially comprises three main parts:

  • The SL Basics Series section, which provides a set of resources designed to help newcomers get to grips with Second Life
  • The Virtual Educators section, which provides a central resource (documents, tools, videos) designed to help educators and teachers understand the benefits and potential of using Second Life as a medium for teaching and education
  • The SLictionary, a searchable glossary of Second Life terms, words, abbreviations, etc.

It is the SL Basics modules which are the focal-point for Carmsie’s blog post. In it, she covers the aims of the series, outlines the structure of the modules and their relationship with one another, etc,  and provides notes and thoughts on how the series can be delivered (e.g. as a series of self-teach modules, as a classroom-lead activity, or as a combination of the two).

While primarily aimed at educators and instructors, the introduction to the series notes it can be used by anyone new to SL, or who is interested in trying-out Second Life.

The 6 elements (including the introduction) of the SL Basics course provided as a part of SLeducate
The 6 elements (including the introduction) of the SL Basics course provided as a part of the SLeducate website

There are six modules in total – an introductory unit and five learning modules which take someone wishing to get started with Second Life from signing-up for an account, through downloading the viewer (Firestorm being the viewer of choice in the course), and on to the essentials of getting about in SL, and understanding camera controls, clothing, inventory, etc.

Each module comprises one or more interactive Adobe Captivate sessions, complete with embedded video and demonstrations, with supporting information such as PDF format “cheat sheets” and other handy documents, useful URLS and SLurls, additional optional videos and demonstrations, etc. Each of the Adobe Captivate sessions in turn covers a specific aspect of using Second Life, and can be allowed to run at its own pace, or users can step forward / back through it as needed, with an estimated maximum duration for any session of around 15 minutes.

To assist with using the modules for self-teaching or asynchronously, and to provide and in-world community around the SL Basics Series, Carmsie has created the SLeducate group in-world. This can be used by those following the modules to seek assistance, ask questions, exchange ideas, and so on.

Modules include built-in demonstrations, allowing users to see what they'll need to to in order to complete assorted tasks
Modules include built-in demonstrations, allowing users to see what they’ll need to do in order to complete assorted tasks

All of the modules and resources within the SLeducate website are available to anyone wishing to use them – visitors can either log-in using the Guest account, or they can create an account of their own.

For those already in-world, the SLeducate Activity Station, located on the UWA’s in-world campus, provides access to all of the modules in the SL Basics Series, the opportunity for people to join the SLedcuate in-world group, and additional resources and information for new users. For example, there are teleports to “fitting rooms” where students to can to follow the module session on clothing and creating outfits. There are also freebies available, and as Firestorm is the viewer of choice within the modules, a set of notes on Firestorm classes is available as well. To further support the series through different media, a set of videos for the series can also be found on YouTube.

The SLeducate Activity Station on the UWA campus
The SLeducate Activity Station on the UWA campus

Overall, this is a very comprehensive approach to trying to address issues of helping new users understand what Second Life is an in getting to grips with it. While the idea of using web-based resources has been tried in the past, and discussed in various forums more recently, this is perhaps the most comprehensive approach I’ve seen in providing a web-based suite of resources for new users.

If there is any drawback within it, it is that in this era of short attention spans and the demand for instant gratification, those coming to the site under them own steam (rather than under the guidance of a teacher, educator or friend)  might simply skip over it in their eagerness to get in-world and “on with it”. But that is, unfortunately, pretty much the case with any attempt to ease people through the initial period of engagement with SL.

However, for those with will to give the series the time, or those established SL users looking for the means to introduce friends to SL through a structured approach from sign-up onwards, the SL Basics Series more than fits the bill when it comes to getting started in Second  Life. For the latter in particular, it means they can even run through the various module sessions alongside those they’ve just introduced to SL, making that initial “first hour” a lot less daunting for their friends.

Certainly, and in considering its primary aim of serving the education sector, there is no doubting that the SL Basics Series is a well-considered and executed solution for getting students set-up and engaged with Second Life. Not only do the modules cover all of the essentials when starting-out in SL, they also offer incredible flexibility of use, both by educators and teachers who have been looking for a means to introduce students to working in SL, or for those who may want to further augment their own student orientation process. Beyond this, the SLeducate website as a whole stands to offer an invaluable resource to the education community with SL.

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