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.