JISC have released several new publications recently looking at ways in which multi-user virtual environments and alternative reality games can be used in education.
Alternate reality games for orientation, socialisation and induction by Nicola Whitton of Manchester Metropolitan University reports on the experiences of the ARGOSI project, with which our own Scott Wilson was involved. The project aimed to support student induction in university and acquisition of required library and information skills using a range of resources such as character blogs and supporting websites. Student participation in the activity was disappointing, although consistent with participation in such games in general, and the report is possibly most useful for its analysis of where things did not go right - for example, the this is not a game aesthetic that is fundamental to ARG design may actually be rather inappropriate in a resource designed for students who are already in an unfamiliar and potentially challenging environment. The lessons learned from this project, and the extensive resources produced by it, make this a very useful study.
Second Life is the undisputed MUVE leader in terms of uptake both within and beyond HE, and three JISC publications look at how newcomers and the more experienced can develop their practice within the system. Getting started with Second Life offers exactly what you’d expect, a guide to everything new users need to know from how to register and log in for the first time to some guidance on teaching and course design, some advice on how to address institutional concerns, and a few useful pointers to further reading. One significant omission is the lack of a list of relevant educational sims (impermanent though they may be) and support systems such as the SLED and Virtual Worlds mailing lists - as the guide itself observes, loneliness and the inability to find interesting locations are two of the biggest factors underlying SL’s massive new user attrition rate.
Modelling of Second Life environments reports on the MOOSE project based at the University of Leicester, which looks more deeply at design and delivery issues around learning in MUVEs and identity and socialisation issues arising from the use of avatars in virtual worlds.
Finally, Open habitat: multi-user virtual environments for teaching and learning points to the Open Habitat magazine, an attractive report on how MUVEs were used with students of art and design and philosophy to understand the nature of virtual group interaction and community building.
All these reports provide valuable information and insights into using MUVEs and aspects of gaming in education, and help to demonstrate the increasing significance of both in current educational practice.