19 September 2013

A conference talk at De Montfort University's First Cyberpsychology Conference. September 2013.

Here's a link to my presentation at at De Montfort University's First Cyberpsychology Conference. '3D Virtual Avatars and Machinima to Educate Students about Sustainability' There's some embedded video in the presentation as an example of some of the rapid development of machinima we've been doing using the virtual world Second Life.

26 July 2013

Here's a link to my presentation at Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2013. This is is a global grass-roots community event which focuses on education in immersive virtual environments. This open conference is organized by educators, for educators, to provide an opportunity to showcase the learning that takes place in this community of practice.

My talk outlined a few funded projects I've had looking, this time, at Sustainability within Higher Education. Here's the abstract:

Using Second Life Avatars and Machinima to Introduce Sustainability into the University Curriculum: Evidence from Two Funded Pro-Environmental Behaviour Studies.

In 2011 the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in the UK funded seven projects to look at Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the Professional Curriculum. Cyberspace technologies featured strongly in utilising a wide range of professionally-accredited undergraduate degrees to explore the ways in which interdisciplinary awareness of sustainability issues is encouraged or prevented by professional requirements. The first project reported here “Problem-based Learning in Virtual Interactive Educational Worlds for Sustainable Development” (PREVIEW-Sustain) exploited the distinctive properties Second Life by using problem-based teaching methods with digital avatars in (the virtual) world.

In a previous JISC-funded project led by the author with Aston University and the ‘HEA Psychology Network’ we previously validated, transferred and disseminated immersive cyber-activities and materials adapted from Coventry University’s Second Life ‘PREVIEW’ project for use in mental health awareness and Psychology teaching. The follow-on PREVIEW-Sustain project reused and transferred these teaching methods to introduce Sustainability education to academic staff and students across two university subject groups (Psychology and Geography) by using customised online problem-based scenarios.

This presentation reports the virtual world methods developed and redeployed for the Sustainability agenda. The work existed entirely in the online virtual world populated by highly personalised 3D digital avatars. We conducted a series of learning scenarios with University staff and students highlighting motivational and behavioural factors that impact on real-world environmental sustainability (e.g., resources, recycling and energy efficiency). These materials are available to the wider teaching community. The project’s ‘virtual’ infrastructure is in place within the virtual world Second Life.

The online videos of the Second Life avatar interactions we developed, to further engage the community, later provided the basis for a follow-on research project which will also be reported here. We used filmed avatar interactions to assess changes in real world pro-environmental behaviour. We embed these videos in the University’s online teaching ‘virtual Learning Environment’ and assessed students before and after exposure to the environmental messages in the machinima.

Innovative cyberspace teaching and learning techniques offer flexible, cost-effective and rapidly deployed Higher Education solutions. Further research using similar virtual world techniques is planned that will explore Disability Awareness.

18 July 2012

Cyberpsychology and Computer Psychology conference 2012 (CyComp2012)

Here's the slides from my Keynote lecture at the Cyberpsychology and Computer Psychology conference 2012 (CyComp2012) held at Bolton University. I've also included my Abstract below. 

This is a really valuable conference and I very much enjoyed meeting many new contacts and old friends.

Speaker: Dr Simon Bignell (Lecturer in Psychology, Centre for Psychological Research, University of Derby, UK).

The Fall and Rise of Virtual Worlds in Online Teaching and Research:
Early Adopters, Geek Cliques and Cool Innovation.

Online multi-user virtual environments such as Second Life™ are computer programs populated with personalised digital avatars that offer users the potential to engage in customised lifelike learning activities. Once developed, teaching and research materials created ‘in world’ are persistent and can be accessed continuously, mashed with other online services or used for real-time group activities.

The highly immersive nature of multi-user virtual worlds such as Second Life™ and the economies of scale of deployed e-learning and online research make these methods increasingly appealing across the education sector. However, developing and delivering teaching in virtual worlds is challenging, requires planning and possibly requires relinquishing much control to the learner. Likewise, doubts exist about the validity for conducting research and ethical issues remain about anonymity, avatar identity and reliability of the data produced.

Within Second Life™ many Universities are using problem-based learning, simulation and role play to provide digital learning environments that are comparable to the contemporary classroom with all of the advantages of a fully immersive online/distance learning platform. Additionally, the platform offers educationalists and researchers licence to go beyond traditional pedagogic and experimental methods.

Thousands of virtual world settings have be developed as highly experiential real world simulations but it is also possible to offer a ‘stripped-back’ teaching space that removes distractions from the learner’s environment and focuses on individual sequential learning. The benefits are also clear for researchers wishing to remove confounding variables from their virtual experimental space or to fully immerse their participants in a virtual context (or body) and maintain experimental control. The challenge to these innovative spaces is in realizing their potential without being bogged-down in technology.

This talk follows several funded projects by the author and collaborators and plots the progress and future direction of teaching and research in these evolving online digital communities.

15 July 2012

Cyberpsychology and Computer Psychology conference 2012 (CyComp2012)

The University of Bolton Computer and Cyberpsychology Research Unit (UBCCRU) based in the Psychology Subject Group of the Faculty of Wellbeing & Social Sciences, are holding a two-day conference on cyberpsychology and computer psychology (CyComP2012).

The conference will be held at the University of Bolton on Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th July, 2012.

Keynote speakers are listed below:


The final programme is now available (pdf).The website is here: http://www.bolton.ac.uk/conferences/cycomp2012/


  • Standard attendance: £150 (£100 for one day)
  • Reduced rate for students: £120 (£80 for one day)
  • Fee includes morning and afternoon coffee and lunch.
  • Conference dinner (3 courses at Holiday Inn, 16th July): £25

Further Information

Please address all enquiries to: CyComp@bolton.ac.uk
Dr. John Charlton
CyComP 2012
Faculty of Wellbeing & Social Sciences
University of Bolton
Bolton BL3 5AB

04 July 2012

Best Practices in Virtual Worlds Teaching Guide

Our (Bignell, Parson, et al) Best Practices in Virtual Worlds Teaching Guide produced by University of Derby and Aston University in collaboration and funding from the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network and JISC is available in soft and hard copy. The guide features tips and advice on setting up teaching in virtual worlds using problem-based learning methods. It’s designed primarily for those teaching Psychology, humanities and the social sciences but will be useful to anyone starting out teaching using virtual worlds.

It is available as a free download at the project website http://previewpsych.org or direct from this link http://previewpsych.org/BPD2.0.pdf


22 June 2012

In an expansion to my PREVIEW-Psych project, in collaboration with Rosemary Horry (University of Derby) and with generous funding from the Higher Education Academy, I'm using the virtual reality platform Second Life to gauge people’s unconscious attitudes towards ‘green’ issues such as recycling.

This video outlines the project. There’s a link here to more information about the project at the University web magazine here. There's also information over at the PREVIEW-Psych sister site here.

If you're interested in Green or 'Education of Sustainable Development (ESD)' issues within Second Life or have a Psychological interest in the area drop me a line, I'd be pleased to hear from you.

07 June 2012

Why use Virtual Worlds in Education?

A really nice presentation given to the Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield by John from Virtual World Watch (VWW). The project produced comprehensive regular reports on ’who’ is doing ’what’ with virtual worlds in UK universities and colleges.

17 May 2012

Simon Bignell and Panote Siriaraya talk about Trends in Virtual Worlds for the Nordic Virtual Worlds Network Project

Panote Siriaraya , Simon Bignell - Trends in Virtual Worlds
Uploaded by NORDICWORLDS. - Technology reviews and science news videos.

Simon Bignell and Panote Siriaraya talk about Trends in Virtual Worlds for the Nordic Virtual Worlds Network Project whilst at a research workshop in Denmark entitled ‘Making Sense of Virtual Worlds and User Driven Innovation'. Comments and discussion are most welcome.

22 March 2012

QI on Second Life and Avatar Relationships

Here's a segment from the fabulous QI (Series H) with two stories of online relationships; one in Cornwall and another in Japan. This episode features (the Great) Eddie Izzard bemused upon hearing about avatar relationships in Second Life.

17 June 2011

Digital Hybridity

Today I'm presenting at the 'Digital Hybridity' conference talking about "Three Faces of the Virtual World: Simulation, ‘Stripped-back’ Teaching & Problem-based Learning". This event is hosted by the Digital and Material Arts Research Cente (D-MARC) at the University of Derby in collaboration with EMUA colleagues, and in association with CTRG Creative Technologies Research Group. Their guest speaker is the fantastic STELARC.

As successive software and hardware innovation facilitates crossovers between traditional arts disciplines, Hybridity is becoming a defining feature of the emerging creative digital environment. In this regional university event we wish to interrogate and explore this notion and its implications for the field of arts, design and communications. As boundaries dissolve between traditional practices and aesthetic, theoretical, ethical and technical questions are raised regarding their future alignment, meaning and development. The latest developments in digital technology require that we elaborate new categories of practice and criticism, which also involve rethinking our relationship to the history of traditional practices.

The event will facilitate a range of presentations by arts practitioners and theoreticians to help frame the debate. This full day event is open to acedemics and PhD students from East Midlands Higher Education Institutions. Text taken from  http://www.derby.ac.uk/digitalhybridity

Here is my abstract.

The sense of immersion within multi-user virtual environments can provide educators and students with the ability to connect and communicate in ways that greatly enhance the learning experience. These innovative methods of teaching place the student at the centre of the learning by involving them in the experience itself. However, immersive virtual worlds can also offer a non-experiential ‘stripped-back’ platform for teaching that removes distractions from the learner’s environment and focuses on individual sequential learning. Existing pedagogies may not be sufficient to inform good practice in these settings. This presentation will outlined a framework for understanding the relations between the tools, techniques and technology used in learning, support and research in these evolving virtual spaces.

Comments welcome.

27 April 2011

Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds (FCVW) Conference

It is time for the annual Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds (FCVW) Conference taking place on May 11 -13, 2011 in Washington, DC and virtually in Second Life.
The Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds annual conference, which is now in its fourth year, was attended by over 350 in-person participants and over 3,200 virtual participants in 2010.
View the trailer for this year’s conference here: http://vimeo.com/20448330?ab

10 January 2011

Inquiry Based Learning and Second Life

Here's a great talk from experienced SL researcher Shiela Webber (Senior Lecturer in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, UK) given in Second Life 'Inquiry Based Learning and Second Life'.

View Video Here

Her presentation slides are available from Slideshare here: