Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The parallel BA(Hons) Graphic Arts & Design course.

126 students will join level one of the BA(Hons) Graphic Arts & Design course at Leeds Met in September 08. Moving to a big, strange city and joining a large course with an unfamiliar approach to learning is an intimidating experience for many students. Students often struggle to establish their status in the complex social structure of the course, and many feel compelled to re-define their identity to enable them to fit in. The enormity of starting a new course often prevents new students from seeking the guidance they desperately need, both in relation to their course work and their personal developmental needs. The obsession that many students have with summative assessment dominates their thoughts, and the fear of being seen to be failing in any way prevents them from engaging in the dialogue that may quickly solve their problems. Second Life can provide students with a safe haven to voice their concerns, define a new identity and test out different ways of being a creative practitioner.

The following plan for the phase 2 pilot of the Open Habitat project seeks to provide level one Graphics students with a safe, responsive and open habitat to explore new ways of being. The approach suggested here seeks to establish a direct line of communication between the students and the course leader, with the protection of students' anonymity through their avatars. It also seeks to provides a parallel studio/workshop learning environment for students' avatars to simulate the real world activities that they are engaging with as part of their course work. It is, in short, a parallel course, populated by the alter-egos of the level one students that choose to participate.

Central to this plan is the need to separate the initial skills acquisition required to engage with Second Life from the creation of an personal and private identity. During phase one, OpenSim standalone was successfully used to prepare students for their subsequent use of Second Life. This pre-induction worked well in a blended learning setting, as the default avatar and pre-configured account permitted the delaying of identity construction. The pre-induction focussed on core technical skills, particularly building skills, and enabled students to gain confidence in the technology with real world support at the point of need. The subsequent attempt to engage with Second Life in a blended environment was less successful. Students felt confused by the awkward collision of their real life and in-world identities. It emerged that Second Life was best done at a distance.
The following outline project plan has been designed to address the points detailed above.


Wednesday 8th October.
Leading Horses to Water.
OpenSim pre-Second Life induction for all 126 students. 6 x 1 hour blended sessions to run over the course of one day.
Session covers basic navigation, building and camera controls, adopting the 'quest' based approach tested in the first pilot.
A simplified version of the 'name game' from the first pilot will also be used to prepare students for the important task of choosing a name.
At the end of the hour, students will sign-up to Second Life, but keep their new identity secret, and complete Linden Lab's standard induction in their own time, either in the department's open access I.T. labs, or on their own computers. As an incentive to engage, students will be offered the chance to claim 150 linden dollars each and the promise of walking round a virtual version of the new art school that they will be moving into next year, if they turn up on LeedsMet island on Friday 17th at 12 noon.

Students may also choose not to sign up to Second Life and will take no further part in the pilot.

Participants will have 9 days to fend for themselves in Second Life before the first formal meeting. This will enable us to evaluate the effectiveness of the OpenSim pre-induction, and will enable students to bring a range of experiences to the first formal meeting as a basis for initial discussions.

Friday 17th October
Deadline Party.
The deadline for the students' first real life module is 12 noon on this day. In the morning, in-world support will be provided for students panicking about their submission for assessment.

At 12 noon, any avatar who attends will be awarded 150 linden dollars and shown how to sign up to the e-portfolio tool.

A tour round a mock up of the new building that the students will move into next year will be provided, and a discussion will take place about the course so far, providing students with an opportunity to anonymously feed back about their experiences.

'The Book' will be introduced as the primary device for guiding the students' subsequent engagement with Second Life.
The Book is a collection of mini-projects, quotes and suggestions that all level one students receive at the start of the course. It provides the basis for both tutor directed and self directed real life study throughout the first year of study. The Book is full of creative stimulation. The Book will form the basis of the virtual Graphics course, echoing the real course. Collaboration will be drawn out of the tasks engaged with from the book through a process of feedback and coaching by tutors. A notecard/in-world version of the book will be distributed at this session.

At 9pm on the 17th, a party will take place on LeedsMet for any students that haven't, for any reason, found other students in real life to celebrate the end of the first module with.

Friday 24th October
The Book - feedback and support for activities from the book. (Kisa and Cubist). Coordination of collaborative opportunities.
Identity coaching (Kisa)
Discussion and feedback about the real course. (Cubist)

Friday 31st October
The Book - feedback and support for activities from the book. (Kisa and Cubist). Coordination of collaborative opportunities.
Identity coaching (Kisa)
Discussion and feedback about the real course. (Cubist)

Friday 7th November
Exhibition of Book outputs, with feedback and discussion.

Friday 14th November
The Book - feedback and support for activities from the book. (Kisa and Cubist). Coordination of collaborative opportunities.
Identity coaching (Kisa)
Discussion and feedback about the real course. (Cubist)

Friday 21st November
Students gate-crash ReLIVE08.

Friday 28th November
Students gatecrash Emerge online conference.
Private view of exhibition.
Students conduct a tour round their exhibition for Emerge online social event.

Friday 5th December
Discussion and feedback about the real course. (Cubist)
All day session focussing on issues arising for the students 10 week into the course.


Kisa said...

Just one thing that springs to mind, is that LL have dropped Orientation Islands (or are just about to) and are relying soley on Help Islands as the whole of the induction process.

I think we should test out a newbie account, and check before we firmly plan an SL part of a 1-day inductathon

Ian Truelove : Cubist Scarborough said...

Good point. I'm thinking about this now. New post soon.