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Good Practice Framework (redirected from Final draft 9-March-2013)

Page history last edited by moripan@tin.it 9 years, 4 months ago

Welcome to the Good Practice Framework!


The information and documentation provided within the wiki pages of this document capture 3 years of project work and are the major product of the Euroversity Network.


Each partner has contributed to the construction of this wiki in different ways according to their knowledge base, their skills, their interests.


We are grateful to all our partners for their contributions and hope others will be inspired by our work and share their knowlege with us and our growing community.


This is a wiki. As such, it is a living document to which people can contribute indefinitely. While attempting to provide the document with a core structure, we also believe that, as a living document created by people from all over the world and from different educational backgrounds, there should be room for individual expression.


The main language of this document is Euro-English. However, we welcome contributions in any language and in any style.


We hope you enjoy contributing to the Euroversity Framework as much as we have.






1. Pre-course section

    1.1 Decision Making process

    1.2 Aims/Objectives 

    1.3 Funding

    1.4 Environment and the participant

    1.5 Logistics and timetabling

    1.6 Course syllabus

    1.7 Task design 

    1.8 Added value of learning in virtual worlds 

    1.9 Advertising the course

2. Course implementation

    2.1 Technical issues and support

    2.2 Interaction

          2.2.1 In-world communication modes  

          2.2.2 Interaction triggers

          2.2.3 Session and group management

          2.2.4 Additional means and communication

    2.3 Resources and Materials

    2.4 Risks and technical issues

    2.5 Frequently made mistakes

    2.6 Examples of typical teaching situations 

3. Post-course section

    3.1 Participant assessment

    3.2 Virtual exercises: assess or not assess?

    3.3 Process of integrating your virtual participant in your course description

    3.4 Challenges

    3.5 Evaluation                                             

          3.5.1 Course evaluation 

          3.5.2 Evaluating tools

          3.5.3 Evaluation design

          3.5.4 Task/activity evaluation

          3.5.5 Evaluating tools

4. Future practice

     4.1 Reviewing future practice in virtual worlds

4.2 What neuroscience can tell us about virtual worlds and the future.

5. Bibliography




This manual aims at providing guidance for organisations and individual teachers in getting started with teaching in 2D and 3D virtual worlds (VWs - for example Second Life and Club Penguin) and other virtual reality environments.The information found in this guide has been drawn from a range of different projects and teaching experiences, from both public and private institutions across Europe and in Israel. These participating institutions have experience in the use and development of online virtual platforms for education across a range of disciplines (i.e. language education, cultural studies, literature, economics, religious studies, media studies, intercultural communication, digital design, computer science and software engineering, science and business administration) and contexts (lower and higher education and business). The models for learning in virtual reality can vary from courses (AVALON project www.avalonlearning.eu) to blended learning (www.niflar.eu), self-access to impromptu sessions (www.virtlantis.com) and team-building exercises.


References to these experiences can be found throughout the manuscript. The guide aims at supporting other practitioners on best practice implementation of courses/learning events within virtual reality. In order to reach a common ground regarding the terminology used for the different learning events throughout the guide (and for an easier reference method) we have chosen to use the term “course” here. A “course”, as used in this guide, can refer to a course itself, a learning event, a project or a learning encounter depending on the case.


Who can use the guide and why you might want to use it

This guide is designed for educators as a basic introduction to help in the transition into teaching in virtual reality environments. It is designed to be a practical start for those that want to use virtual reality for education. The aim is to help overcome some of the difficulties and obstacles you might encounter when starting teaching/learning in virtual reality environments.

This guide offers a basic overview of how to get started and what you need to think about if planning to use virtual reality to support your teaching. Examples will be provided to help educators understand how it can be used within their fields.


The structure of the guide

The manual includes recommendations about pre-course preparation, course implementation and evaluation and assessment and further guidance on organizational, technical and ethical issues. Best practices (reflections, evaluations, lessons learned) are described and discussed and more in depth resources are indicated where appropriate.


The manual has a modular structure, related to preparation, implementation and evaluation issues. Within the pre-course preparation section the focus will be on the decision making process, aims and objectives of the course, funding, the environment and the learners, logistics and timetabling, course syllabus and advertising. In the course implementation section the following issues will be tackled: technical issues and support, interaction, resources and ethical issues. Finally, the third section (post-course) will deal with the assessment and evaluation part. Throughout the guide EUROVERSITY specific documents (case studies) are combined with links to good practices.

All EUROVERSITY partners have contributed in one way or another to the assembly of the guide; therefore, the manual includes examples from different disciplines and subject areas. However, it aims to be general in its approach while pointing to the existence of literature and information for the teaching and learning of specific subjects.


To find more about the project, please visit www.euroversity.eu and if you wish to grow the EUROVERSITY community and support interested persons please register to www.Facebook.com/groups/euroversity or sign up for the newsletter through the website. For any additional information you can contact us at info@euroversity.eu


What are virtual worlds? 


virtual world or massively multiplayer online world (MMOW) is a computer-based simulated environment, where the users take the form of avatars and can engage in action while communicating with other avatars. Have a look at this short videoclip to get an impression of the possibilities virtual worlds offer to enrich education.





Here is a selection of longer videos which provide insight into how virtual worlds are being used in education.


   DaF Vortrag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNEDyERtMZU

    - Euroversity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCJJJuT1uks

    - Guided tour to an OpenSim for language learning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIvyJosLWAY

    - North Sami course in SL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfNSy8Y26tw  


There are several 3D virtual worlds available for education. Second Life, OpenSim and Minecraft are three of the virtual worlds that are being used by Euroversity partners. In this link you'll find additional information about new developments in virtual learning.





1.1 Decision making process


Setting up a course or a learning event in a virtual world environment is in some ways similar to setting up a regular face-to-face course and it is also, in many ways, different. For example the realization of a number of teaching functions (e.g briefing, help and feedback provision, etc.) needs rethinking for less structured and/or more curriculum rather than specific course-related learning events such as self-access and/or peer to peer, in-world activities.

The first step should consist of examining general issues such as:

  • What kind of students/learners is the course/learning event aiming at? For example, if you want to reach learners who are geographically scattered and can't attend a face-to-face course, an online course may be your best option.
  • What do these students/learners hope to achieve by taking this course? What are their needs?
  • What are the general aims of the course?
  • Are there specific constraints and expectations of funding and/or host institutions?
  • What is the benefit to offer (part of) the course you are planning as online course instead of a face-to-face course? For example, virtual environments may help introverted students to improve their participation. In language courses, interaction during tasks can benefit from more spontaneous exchanges as virtual environments can be used to replicate real life experiences where learners may have to deal with unexpected situations.
  • Have you researched existing courses in the same subject area in other institutions and/or your own? What is the added value of the course you are planning compared with existing face-to-face courses and other online courses?


Once you have decided the general issues concerning the kind of course that is going to take place in a virtual reality environment, then other more specific issues must be addressed:

  • Does the course include a face-to-face component, or is it to take place exclusively in a virtual world environment? Have you identified the competencies which are better developed while using an online course and those that would preferably benefit from a face-to-face environment?
  • Are there any prior experiences with the course in a face-to-face or any other setting? Has it ever been tried and tested in a Virtual World (VW) environment? Are there any similarities or differences between the different course/learning event formats?
  • Do you have access to relevant content materials to be used, reused or adapted to fit different formats? Are there any chances of the course being given again or materials being reused by other colleagues?
  • Do you have enough or adequate technical resources/technical personnel to assist in setting up and running the course? And, in case self-access and/or peer to peer, in-world learning activities are planned, are technical staff available with advanced 3D platform-specific know-how to create environments / objects that can make up for unavailable teaching functions?
  • Do you have access to adequate VW venues for delivering a 3D course?
  • Will you need the use of moderators and/or team leaders in the course?
  • Will it be necessary to pre-train participants in VW use?



1.2 Aims/objectives 


Based on our experience, we recommend that specific aims/objectives of the course/learning event be defined taking into account:



  • expected target group profile, including their technical skills;
  • technical/academic expertise of available professionals in the subject area of the course;
  • added value of the VW environment option in terms of the skills/competences to be developed by trainees;





1.3 Funding


Funding requirements depend on a number of factors. To correctly estimate your budgetary needs, it is useful to consider the following issues:


  • Does the institution have access to a private venue in Second Life (SL) or in other 3D/virtual reality environments?
  • If not, is buying land or setting creation an option available to your institution?
  • If not, are you willing to set up a course in an existing public venue or is there an institutional partnership through which this access can be provided?
  • Creating or buying land is an expensive option and will thus increase costs. But there are cheaper  possibilities such as renting on an existing island or collaborating with others to pay the costs of an island.
  • Is there any guarantee of public funding or private sponsorship for setting up and maintaining the course?
  • If not, funding will depend entirely on tuition fees paid by individual learners or a corporate customer. Courses exclusively funded by customers/learners may imply high individual tuition fees and condition the access to the course of potential candidates due to economic restrictions. Besides this, if your students have to pay individually, your organizational load increases and so can your drop-out rate.
  • Does your institution have the manpower, the technical and organizational capacity to set up and maintain the course, or will outsourcing be required?



1.4 Environment


Choice of environment depends on existing technical resources and should respond to participants’ constraints and preferences. These may even require adaptations while the course runs. 


Once you have decided on what kind of environment you will use, make sure participants get a suitable introduction to the environment. Consider a "registration week" (or "onboarding hours") before the course starts, where each participant has to show up in-world and register. Doing that, you ensure that there will be no major technical problems when the course starts.Tutorials [video or text] available off line are also helpful when trying to solve some technical problems. An additional possibility is to build this process in to the courses as well. It is also worth noting that many companies operate firewalls or security measures that may clash with VWs; make sure that access has been granted and everything works (also the sound).


If you choose a 3D VW such as SL or OpenSim (OpenSimulator), different issues arise considering the private or public nature of the location(s) where sessions will take place. Private locations are tailor-made and thus more easily adapted to course needs.

Public venues present different challenges. Consider the following suggestions:


  • It helps to have a fixed meeting point [base] where all sessions can start from.
  • Be sure to have selected locations carefully knowing what you can and can't do there. Have you checked the landmark at different times? This could give you an idea of what type of avatars might be present at those locations while your students are carrying out tasks. You might want to run a pilot with an experimental group to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of potential locations.
  • Open/public locations may disappear or change even while the course is still running. Prepare back-up plans, just in case!
  • It might be useful to provide a supplementary VLE, e.g. Moodle-like space or Facebook page, or other platforms, since the use of Facebook may raise concerns for some learners, for the distribution of different types of resources relating to the course. The Moodle-like space can also be used to introduce group members to each other.
  • Do you want to incorporate the design and dressing up of avatars into the course? It can be a useful pre-course training and experimentation exercise, but may also distract from the task at hand. During a workshop or team-building event, for example, might avatars standardised and set up ahead of time avoid distractions?




1.5 Logistics and timetabling


Timetabling is particularly important to account for when participants are based in different time zones when using synchronous communication environments and tools. Be sure to schedule sessions at reasonable hours for all involved and don't forget to consider holidays in different countries.


  1. Once timetables are established and publicized, it is important to start the session on time. For this to happen, people should be logged-in 10 minutes before the class starts.
  2. In any case, it may be wise to start sessions with an activity that can be missed -- e.g. a game, some revision of last time, etc. -- with no major loss to the participants.
  3. If your VW course is a component of a blended learning program, you might want to plan tasks for different groups. If this is the case, it is relevant to plan carefully the timetables for each group.
  4. Will all groups be carrying out the same task at the same time in different spaces or will each group have to make use of the same space [landmark, holodeck, etc] to do the task? If this is the case, it will be necessary to organize a calendar where the different groups write down when they will be carrying out the task, avoiding clashes and delays from groups having to wait until another one has finished. A Moodle-like space or simply a Google calender can be useful for managing these issues. Stress the importance of having to write down date and time in the calendar and to stick to it.
  5. Total duration of the course, frequency and duration of sessions depend on many factors: content, aims, target groups, whether the course is part of a larger programme (or not), including (or not) a face-to-face component. In addition to the scheduled session times, the course may require that participants commit extra self-study hours.
  6. Different types of set-ups can also be arranged. For example, students may all be logging in from the same institutional computer lab or they may be logging in from home. Some students may be on campus, some may be at work. Each different set-up will require different technical checks and support mechanisms and planning.




1.6 Course syllabus


Course syllabus should account for:

  • aims of the course
  • requirements of target groups
  • available technical resources and funding
  • the need for specific content materials

In many cases, course syllabi may also require an additional round of validation and approval by host/funding institutions.

If you use task-based teaching methodologies, make sure all tasks are tested before including them in your course. They need to be tested in the same circumstances as the students will encounter them in.

If using a textbook, as for example with a blended approach, make sure that the virtual tasks are linked to the course syllabus.



1.8 Advertising the course


Consider different and complementary advertising channels targeting different interest groups and institutions:

  • host institution dissemination networks
  • social media
  • e-mails
  • personal contacts
  • flyers
  • press releases in the local press or specialized media
  • posters in conferences, meetings, fairs and other related events




2.1 Technical issues and support


With a project/course that so heavily depends on technology for all aspects of interaction and communication, technical issues are very common and can be expected. Thus one should be prepared. There are several ways to mitigate such challenges, but a predetermined (yet flexible) strategy is needed and should be decided upon prior to the commencement of the course. The following points of advice should be taken into account:


  1. Troubleshoot your particular platform prior to using it to prevent problems and to make sure things are always up-to-date.
  2. Sort out technical issues before the course starts - test systems and anticipate issues (see above: “onboarding hours”).
  3. Have additional staff available for technical assistance (e.g. tutors or tech support made aware of your course) - at least for the first 2 sessions.
  4. If you are the one who runs the session: Make sure your own technology and computer setup runs reliably well. Maybe, have a backup machine, in case something goes terribly wrong.
  5. Make sure you have alternative contact-info of all participants: (e.g. Facebook, Skype, e-mail, Moodle, etc...), so, in case of a disconnection or other forms of trouble, you can reach them in time; tell them to have their Skype/Facebook/e-mail open during (or shortly before) class or at least as a backup policy if something goes wrong.
  6. Have fallback-solutions for partial problems, like audio issues. (e.g. use Skype if Second Life-voice does not work.)
  7. Have quick solution guides with an easy referencing system to allow for very quick communications with SMS or Skype chat in order to get students active again without losing too much time (see example and prototype in the Dropbox WP2 folder "Uni-Bielefeld FAQ - final") Plan fallback-sessions: e.g.: if SecondLife is not available (which sometimes happens), have a Skype-session prepared; a Facebook-session or AdobeConnect room available, ...
  8. Train students well when their initial motivation is high - teach them to use text-chat if they can’t hear; teach them to answer if you ask a question; teach them to actively participate - in order to show, that they do not have technical problems.
  9. Have a "help session" per task for some or all participants, particularly at the beginning. State clearly what is allowed or possible for each tool and what is not a possible problem solving strategy. (i.e a text chat session can not be a substitute for an oral activity)
  10. Have a screen sharing software (like Skype, iChat or other 3rd party software solutions) to use to offer distance help. The teacher should use the software prior to the course and provide a how toon screen sharing so that the time it takes to solve the problem is lessened and does not include problem solving the solution. (i.e. fixing Skype to use it to fix another problem.



2.2 Interaction


In general:

Given the fact that (oral and written) interaction is key to realizing the majority of the course aims (especially in language teaching), the availability of good quality voice and related user technical skills is a vital precondition. It is therefore advisable to invest in proper training and preparatory sessions & materials (also see 3.1. above) and, (b) if resources allow, in having an assistant present during in-world interaction hours. In this way loss of teaching and learning time due to lack of basic SL skills can be avoided as much as possible.



2.2.1 In-world Communication Modes


This section can best be divided into two categories according to: (1) who or what one is communicating with and (2) the types of active and passive communication channels available.

1. Human / non-human forms of communication; these are the types of relationships and roles to keep in mind. Virtual worlds have different potential than a normal classrooms. There is more to consider and more to exploit. Additonally, there are certain risks to consider according to how open and public the virtual environment is.The types of human interaction are primarily the following: peer2peer, teacher and student; student and actor, student/teacher and other virtual world residents.

  • The basic human roles are: students, teachers, actors for role play in the case of language learning or experts in the case of the teaching of other subjects, natives and moderators
  • Non-human interaction is primarily achieved with in-world interaction with bots
  • Other non-human interaction includes: basic interaction with objects and the varied outcomes (e.g. normal object commands, switches, shops [free and paid], control panels, teleport points, boxes and accepting objects) -
  • Since humans (especially students) are involved, risk management has to be considered before one acts in a virtual world. This is covered in a more detailed fashion in the section below, 3.4 Risks and Ethical Issues.

2. Active: Written / Spoken - this is the primary way students communicate with each other. Besides gestures and implicit actions, this is all there is. Exploitation of these tools and methods are an active and continuous part of the teaching in virtual worlds. Mastery of these tools and methods by teachers are essential for good teaching in virtual worlds. This communication can be divided into synchronous and asynchronous means.

  • Synchronous - this is communication which goes back and forth and happens at the same time and represents most of the active communication in class. Some of the tools that represent this form of communication are the following:
    • IM, Private Calls, Class chats, SMS, (although SMS is mostly like an email and primarily asynchronous, it can be used in a synchronous manner when trouble shooting or communicating back and forth.)
    • Adobe Connect, or other similar tools, can be synchronous and used in combination and collaboration with virtual world teaching as an alternative mode of interaction or as a back up. (see sections 3.1 and 3.2.4)
    • Chat window can be used as a synchronous feedback tool
    • Chat window can be used as a white board for correction and other input
    • Powerpoint Presentations (when delivered live with presenter)
    • Internet browser as a window out of the classroom and into certain topics and learning material (e.g. contained in Moodle)
  • Asynchronous - allows for students to miss class or part of class but still stay up to date and allows communication at a casual pace outside of classroom - extends learning outside of the classroom. Here are some examples of asynchronous communication and their uses:
    • In-world IMs can be set to be delivered asynchronously and emailed to the user when they are not online any longer.
    • email is asynchronous
    • Powerpoint slides (when downloadable or in an archive or repository, i.e. Slide Share)
    • Tools like Facebook, Twitter and Skype can be both depending upon their use and which functions are used
    • m-learning when connecting with these tools - students can get messages on Twitter or FB on their mobile phones (or use Moodle, e.g. forums)
    • use of LMS with forums or other social tools
    • Chat log - this can set to be recorded in SL and then archived or posted to LMS; it can be used to profile classes or individual student issues or mistakes, used to build exercises, resource to build vocabulary list from or based on

Passive: Reading/Listening (Audio/Visual) - Often the biggest input mode and the way in which the students spend the majority of their time interacting with the world is through this mode (everyone cannot be talking all the time). Since these failures in these functions at the student level cannot be observed, it is essential to develop strategies and knowledge regarding the working of these functions. They are critical to the success of the learning experience and so that students are not lost staring at a screen and with minimal engagement. The following should be considered:

  • strategies for listening (positioning, what is seen, controlling audio, etc)
  • knowledge of audio settings:

- setting audio to camera or to avatar

- setting the individual volume

  • pre-alerting students to a possible need and ability to turn off volume in areas visited that are not controlled by educational group - use of a pre-made guide to can help with this (see point 7 in Section 3.1)
  • zooming in on a presentation
  • opening windows in external browser for better viewing and listening experience

Note that the simultaneous voice/text functions can be used for note- and minute-taking. While the primary speaker is presenting his/her ideas or work a moderator or assistant can summarise the main points in text to provide real-time minute-taking on the record, which other participants can see and interact with - without disrupting the primary speaker. 


2.2.2 Interaction triggers


i. teacher designed tasks: models used for task design may differ depending on the objectives of the interaction planned during the in-world activity (e.g. deepening understanding of concepts through peer to peer (collaborative learning)) or the promotion of exchange of information & negotiation of meaning (e.g. in language learning & ICC development).

For an example of teacher designed tasks in a language learning context please see www.niflar.eu under the tasks section as well as the guidelines followed to design them in such context

ii. methodology and approaches

iii. user driven, informal activities

iv. object triggered interaction (including games) An example is the Lottery Balls game  inspired by the Talking Dice materials used for F2F classroom speaking activities in language education.
This machinima (video shot inworld)  was created to demo the use of another object-based game, 'The Comics Puzzler' as an information gap activity


2.2.3 Session and Group Management


The greatest power of virtual world teaching is its ability to bring together individuals - students and teachers - regardless of spatial limitations and a reliance on travel. In such an environment, group and session management is essential to success. There are a number of tools and approaches to consider for success.

Creating Groups and Friends

  1. friending people and fellow classmates in-world makes them easily traceable and means that they can be sent a location or "found" when "lost".
  2. grouping friends can help keep things organized and helps when something is going wrong and a quick solution is needed.
  3. SL dashboard setup for optimal group management - get everything in the right place and in a useful position.
  4. There is a need for a group building tool to be created or found.

In-world Tools to enable and facilitate group and pair work (i.e. in-world objects)

  1. Skytable and chairs with controller - these are paired chairs that sit across from each other at a table which enable partners to be transported to another level where they cannot be heard by anyone else. Great for partner/pair work or small groups.
  2. Divided rooms or sandboxes - this tool allows users to be in the same room, but they can only hear people in their designated area. Great for small to medium sized groups in a larger group context.
  3. Rooms with internet browser in the round (on all walls) - this super-sizes the internet experience for a group and empowers brainstorming and collaborative searching (e.g. team whiteboarding solutions like Twiddla).
  4. Object based group building - building groups around objects that indicate the different groups and limiting the number of students (e.g. “everyone pick a favorite animal and stand by it - groups cannot have more than 3 members.”)

Build-in SecondLife Tools for Group Management (e.g. build in chat, IM and individual phone calls)

  1. Using Chat, Phone and IM for group management - there are a multitude of approaches; most are obvious.
  2. Combined approach with FAQ Guide. Using a guide with a well structured table of contents and referencing system to give students with problems or when they are lost - often the biggest issues that break up a group. (See Point 7, Sec. 3.1)
  3. The built in SL Minimap and world map combined with touch teleporting - to find people, teleport to them or offer a teleport to them, and get them where they need to be.


2.2.4 Additional Means of Communication



It is advised that any participant in virtual world teacher take an integrated and multifaceted approach to e-learning resources. Therefore research of additional communication tools and integration of such tools into ones teaching toolbox is essential. Information is needed about additional tools (mail, forum, Skype, Facebook) to support communication with and between course participants. These resources change at a rapid pace and what is popular today may not be the tool of choice in the future. Therefore, it is essential to check lists like

100 most used educational tools for reference.



Below is a list of possible resources for extended support and fallback solutions which we have used during the Euroversity project. Please be aware that preferred tools of choice may vary as market leaders, software applications and functionality change over time.


a. Adobe Connect

b. Skype 

c. Facebook page or Facebook opened group

d. Twitter

e. Google+

f. Moodle or other LMS (Sloodle add-on for Moodle)

g. Wordpress or similar Blog





2.3 Resources and Materials


A small note on the use of resources and materials: Whatever resources (in-world material, documents in an LMS, quizzes, etc.) that you plan to use, make sure they are available and functional (test them before class starts!). Always think about reusing existing material and how to share material that you create yourself with your students for a better pedagogical experience and for the existing teaching community so that we learn and benefit from each other.

Regarding finding resources and materials, there is a large number of resources that exist that can help enhance a virtual world class be more successful (e.g. places, in-world objects, in-world games, browser functions and apps). It is usually just a matter of locating what you need and making sure the in-world setup you use is compatible with the resources you wish to use. (e.g. Browsers, tools or white boards). 

There are different kinds of tasks that can be used. Different projects have developed materials for learning in virtual worlds.


2.4 Risks and Ethical issues


  • Risks - Risk management has to be considered before one acts in a virtual world that is open to the general public. There are users who are not associated with one's class that one should be aware of. Information that is not public should be carefully handled. For such considerations the following should be kept in mind:
    • strategies and tools for dealing with hostile natives (people encountered when visiting a public place)
    • data protection: keeping private or sensitive data safe (example of sharing Doodle link in Euroversity meeting and it being wiped by a hostile spammer.)
    • Identity theft (e.g. emails, student ID, group links, etc..)
    • seedy areas in-world - students should be warned of alternative uses of Virtual Worlds (i.e. romantic and sexual purposes), and be given instruction on how to deal with such anomalies.
    • age limits: make sure the environment you use is compatible with the age of your students
  • Bullying - This is definitely an issue that the students must be prepared to deal with, and teachers should have a plan about how to diffuse certain anticipated situations. It has been said by those with a lot of experience in Second Life, for example, that it is more like the real world than one might anticipate; everything that exists in the real world exists there as well, even the less than pleasant aspects. (Avalon TT Course Assessment)


2.5 Frequently made mistakes






3.1 Participant assessment


When considering learner assessment for the course there are certain points that need to be taken into account. Firstly, a decision would have to be taken on whether the virtual tasks will be assessed or not (will they represent in themselves a percentage of the final grade?) ; and secondly, whether the course assessment is going to take place in world or out of world, that is, if the virtual world is just going to be used as a tool to support learning but not be the place where assessment occurs. Here the word “task” is used to refer to all activities/exercises taking place in the virtual world, be it a task, a project or a game, since not all courses given in this type of platform will necessarily be task-based. This will involve careful consideration on how the contents of the virtual world course material are going to fit in the assessment process.


3.2 Virtual excercise: assess or not assess?


If tasks are to be assessed it will have to be decided whether it will be done on performance of individual learning tasks or on the entire set of tasks that the course may require. The participants will need to be aware in advance of the assessment criteria for their performance during these exercises. The assessment criteria itself also needs to be given some thought to make sure it is in line with the course’s goals and objectives.

Not all aspects of participants’ performance in the virtual world need to be assessed. It may well be that these assessed components form part of the overall course assessment and other aspects are evaluated in other places. Other times the virtual sessions will not be considered a final product themselves or be graded/ assessed. In that case, these virtual collaborative activities can contribute to the body of preparation work for other formal assessments (midterm, final exams and homework activities) or research purposes. In cases like these, you can also opt for making the virtual activities compulsory to certify completion of courses.


3.3 Process of integrating virtual participation in your course description.


The following three aspects will ensure that the assessment of virtual sessions in a course runs smoothly:

1. Depending on your institution, making the virtual sessions compulsory as part of students’ final grade might require negotiations with governing bodies and any accreditation issues will also need to be considered. This aside from the fact that the virtual exercises can have a certain weight in students’ final grade or simply be a requirement to complete the course without representing any percentage of the final grade.

2. Having a clear assessment criteria for the virtual world component and course grading definition will help with any appeals against grades. Consider for example any possibilities that will allow you to keep records, the same way you would do it in a face-to-face setting. This can be done by means of recording the sessions but explore other possibilities available for your chosen platform.

3. Do not underestimate the time needed to assess and evaluate participants' performance. This needs to be quantified and built into the 'time budget' for any course. Think for instance about the assessment of tasks that have been recorded. The instructor will need to view them all as opposed to the immediacy of awarding grades while students are doing them in a physical classroom. However, the fact that the task is recorded, may lean towards more equitable grade awarding and actually be a point in favour of using virtual reality for learner assessment rather than the face-to-face context.



3.4 Challenges


The virtual world provides opportunities for a two way immediate communication between teacher and student and it also allows this type of communication to support peer assessment. Because of the immediacy of the medium, it may be easier for students to identify faults in presentations for instance. However, the are challenges when assessing theses interactions: knowing who is speaking and so who is the subject of assessment; turn taking; and finally, some may remain silent (hidden) in large groups.


3.5 Evaluation



3.5.1 Course evaluation


Once the course has come to an end the evaluation part will give us an idea of how it worked in order to have the opportunity to improve and/or make changes.



3.5.2 Evaluating tools


Feedback on virtual sessions can be collected immediately in the virtual spaces with tools such as votemasters. Online surveys, (recorded) interviews with participants and teachers and informal meetings with participants are a few of the possibilities to carry out more extensive evaluations. Others, like archiving (written) conversations might serve this purpose too but are more labour intensive in terms of immediate feedback. In order to make the most of your evaluation take special care when designing it to include aspects referring to content, methodology, environment, learning potential, organization, etc.

Be aware that your institution might have its own evaluating procedures for course evaluation. Explore the opportunity to be able to run your own course evaluation or the chances of adding your own questions to the institutional evaluation form and/or procedure.



3.5.3 Evaluation design


The design of the evaluation can be a task for an external evaluator but in any case, the perspectives of the different parties (course designers, course tutors, administrators and learners) should be reflected. Items for consideration when evaluating a virtual world course or learning event could include: the course’s virtual environment, the tasks, speech partners, learning potential, support of social interactive needs, communication with teacher and peers and global evaluation [for some examples please see https://avalonlearning.pbworks.com/w/page/7682815/Feedback%20Questionnaires]Feedback from teachers, peer group and experts is an essential design principal.

It is important to follow the progress closely to see whether the design principles you are using in the course are being successful or if changes need to be introduced. This can be done informally (brief comments from participants) or formally (questionnaires at the end of each virtual session) together with teacher observation.



3.5.4 Task/activity evaluation


As well as evaluation of the course as a whole, you can also choose to evaluate virtual tasks/activities individually.



3.5.5 Evaluating tools


This can be done during the course on a regular basis, for example after each activity with an online survey or with a more informal/brief discussion with participants together with teacher observation. Aspects regarding the virtual session evaluation could focus on achievement of proposed goals, difficulty of task, duration, technical problems, suitability of instructions, learning outcomes, etc.

If done during the course this gives us the opportunity to make any changes (if needed) in other course tasks. If this evaluation is done at the end of the course it will give us the information needed to develop more effective pedagogical and instructional material for future courses.

The information gathered from these evaluations is very valuable. Not only will it help us improve future courses but its results could also be used for research and dissemination purposes.

4. Future practice

     4.1 Reviewing future practice in virtual worlds

4.2 State of the art in virtual world education and research






The following is a list of publications and online resources that the authors of the Euroversity Framework have found useful in their years of experience of working with virtual worlds. The list includes publications some of the partners have contributed to themselves. The list is by no means exhaustive and is meant as a starting point for others to add to.




Harwood, T. (2013). Machinima as a learning tool. Digital Creativity, 24(3), 168-181


Lu, L. (2011). Art Education Avatars in Action: Preparing Art Teachers for Learning and Teaching in a Virtual Age (for Special issue Digital Games and Simulations in Teacher Preparation). Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 19(3), 287-301. Chesapeake, VA: SITE.


Molka-Danielsen J, & Deutschmann M (eds.). Learning and Teaching in the Virtual World of Second Life. 2009. Trondheim, Tapir Academic Press. ISBN 978-82-519-2353-8.


Muldoon, N. & Kofoed, J. (2011). Exploring the Affordances of Second Life Machinima as an Anchor for Classroom-based Apprenticeship. International Journal on E-Learning, 10(4), 419-439.


Outakoski, Hanna (2014). Teaching an endangered language in virtual reality. In Jones, M.C. & Ogilvie, S. (red.) (2014). Keeping languages alive: documentation, pedagogy and revitalization. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. pp. 128-139.


Rodrigues, Clara et al. (2010) Training in Virtual Worlds -Guide of good practices. Deliverable of the VITA Project http://issuu.com/easpombas/docs/vita-101220-guide_of_good_practices_rev_final?e=1772842/6220881



Thomassen, A. & Rive, P., (2010). How to enable knowledge exchange in Second Life in design education?, Learning, Media & Technology. June 2010, Vol. 35 Issue 2, p155-169


Whelan, E., Teigland, R. Vaast, E. and Butler, B. (forthcoming) Seeing What Really Matters:Expanding the Horizons of Social Network Research in IS.






Language Education


Canto, S., Jauregi, K. & van den Bergh, H. (2013). Integrating cross-cultural interaction through video-communication and virtual worlds in foreign language teaching programs. burden or added value? In ReCALL, 25/1, 105-121.


De Jong Derrington, M. (2013) Second Language Acquisition by Immersive and Collaborative Task-Based Learning in a Virtual World. In: Childs M. and Peachey, A., eds.,(2013) Understanding Learning in Virtual Words, Human-Computer Interaction Series. London: Springer-Verlag, pp. 135-161.


Deutschmann, M., H. Outakoski, L. Panichi & C. Schneider (2010). Virtual Learning, Real Heritage Benefits and Challenges of Virtual Worlds for the Learning of Indigenous Minority Languages. In International Conference ICT for Language Learning Conference Proceedings, 3rd Edition. Florence: Simonelli Editore - University Press.


Koenraad, A.L.M. (2008). How can 3D virtual worlds contribute to language education? Paper presented at the 3rd International WorldCALL Conference: Using Technologies for Language Learning (WorldCALL 2008, Fukuoka, Japan).



Koenraad, T. (2013). Exploring student teacher roles in 3D virtual world projects in modern language and teacher education. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 3514-3521). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/48643.


Outakoski, Hanna (2014). Teaching an endangered language in virtual reality. In Jones, M.C. & Ogilvie, S. (red.) (2014). Keeping languages alive: documentation, pedagogy and revitalization. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. pp. 128-139. 



University of Manchester wiki showing teacher education experiences of working in virtual worlds.








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