Learning From Online Worlds; Teaching In Second Life was a research project at the London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London. The project was funded by the Eduserv Foundation. The team worked part-time on the project from June 2007 to May 2008.

Update: Taught sessions in Second Life continue (2009-10). We are adding papers here as they are published.

Introduction: During 2007-2008, the project team, Diane Carr and Martin Oliver and Andrew Burn researched learning in two online, social worlds, Second Life and World of Warcraft. We explored and extended this work by teaching four sessions in Second Life over the course of two semesters.  Here at the blog there are lots of our notes from planning and teaching sessions, interviews, links to work by educators working in Second Life (see the Resoures SL  page), as well as abstracts and drafts from various research papers, and a report on our experiences of teaching (see ‘Learning to Teach in Second Life’).

If you are teaching in virtual worlds or researching related issues you are welcome to add a link to your work at the Resources SL page.

Guide to material here at the blog

The best ‘overview’ of the project as a whole is probably no.3 the ReLive paper.

List of Pages: Some of the outcomes from the project are posted here. These include: 

1. Learning to Teach in Second Life: A report based on our experiences of teaching in SL. 

2. ‘Tanks, Chauffeurs and Backseat Drivers: Compentence in MMORPGs’ – now in vol 3, No 1 (2009) Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture (link)

3. ‘Learning, Teaching and Ambiguity in Virtual Worlds’, paper for ReLive08 at the Open University, UK, November 2008. This is being published in Peachey, A., Gillen, J., Livingstone, D. & Robbins, S. (eds) Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds. Springer.

4. ‘Learning in Virtual Worlds: Using communities of practice to explain how people learn from play’ – an abstract for the British Journal and Education and Technology, Special issue, ‘Out of This World: 3-D MUVEs in Higher Education’ 40 (3) April  

5. Exclusion and Community in SL: Draft of research notes looking at tensions at the SL forum.

6. Game Diary: Material from our game diary/initial forays into SL – this is where elements of this research, such as the ‘SL pain barrier’, come from. 

7. Teaching Machinima: An interview with Britta Pollmuller about her work at Schome Park

8. Voice in Virtual Worlds: An interview with Greg Wadley about his research into voice in SL. 

9. ‘Second Life, Immersion and Learning’ – Carr and Oliver (in press 2009), book chapter. Keywords: Immersion, immersive, immersionist, voice, learning, education, augmentationist, engagement, realism. 

9a. Carr, D (in press)  ‘Constructing Disability in Online Worlds; Conceptualising Disability in Online Research’. London Review of Education: Special Issue ‘Being Online: A Critical View of Identity and Subjectivity in New Virtual Learning Spaces’  March 2010

(The above focuses on the impact of the voice feature on d/Deaf residents of Second Life)

Carr, D (2007) ‘Machinima and Education’ – a short article for the Futurelabs website, September 2007. Machinima’ are 3D animations created in real time using computer games. Educators are learning to exploit the potentials of this creative, flexible and accessible medium…more here

Content as posts/under categories 

 A lot of working notes from the project itself can be found in the quarterly Project Updates category.

Updates in the first quarter (Jun, Jul, Aug) focus on initial research and emerging themes.

The second quarter (Sept, Oct, Nov) has material about planning and delivering our first taught sessions in SL.

The third quarter (Dec, Jan, Feb) has reflections and notes about these taught sessions, plus plans and notes on our second set of SL sessions in early 08.

Notes on our final taught session are under Project Updates Mar, April, May 08.

Accessibility – If you would prefer to have this information in a different format, please contact the project team, or d.carr[at]ioe.ac.uk.

30 Responses to “Welcome”

  1. Martin Oliver Says:

    Glad to have the project underway and this space to chat in; now, if only I could find some time to actually go exploring in Second Life… [grin]

  2. socialworlds Says:

    If anybody wants to add a comment to a post (see ‘Categories’) just click on the word ‘comment’ tucked up under the post’s title, and take it from there.

    It’s come to our attention that some comments were automatically diverted to the spam bin. Sorry about that! If possible, please re-send your message. We promise to check our bins more regularly in the future!


  3. Emma W. Says:

    Hello there Diane, Martin & Andrew,

    Congratulations on the funding. I’m really looking forward to hearing/reading about your Second Life adventures (& of course all things WoW).

    We’ll be doing a machinima workshop in Second Life this summer with our project here in Denmark (we attempt to get more women and girls aware of, interested in, and improved access to computer gaming through various production-based workshops and gaming events). And we’re happily rubbing our hands together over here with the knowledge that we can lean up on your online experiences as well as teaching sessions in the very near future 🙂

    Good luck with the work, and more luck in finding the perfect frock & body.

    /Emma W.

  4. socialworlds Says:

    Thanks Emma,
    Please send us links, announcements, anything – as they become available. Sounds great! Jelly’s given up the body search after an unfortunate accident with a ‘freebie’ that involved temporarily turning into a giant peanut lady.
    PS Here’s a machinima resource that might be useful, if you’ve not come across it before.

  5. Emma W. Says:

    Thanks for the link and we’ll keep you posted on the Scandinavian machinima trials and tribulations.

    /Emma W.

    PS. Watch out for those freebies, a friend of mine got a erhhm “male body part” attached to her character in a PG zone … a most awkward newbie experience!!

  6. The processes of the students’ learning and the teachers’ facilitating may be quite similar to that written about when MOO’s and MUD’s were utilized in the early 1990’s. I think an added ‘domain’ to the MOO/MUD’s research is the opportunity for multimodality and subsequent multi-literacies that can be adopted by a successful Second Life teacher in scaffolding a student’s learning.
    In addition, if your research has a cultural component (as stated above), I am indeed keen for your in-service teachers in SL to ‘teach’ something to my Japanese students. I look forward to your response. Dr. Michael Vallance, Future University- Japan, (michael@fun.ac.jp).

  7. socialworlds Says:

    Hello Michael,
    Multimodality? That’s Andrew’s mantra!

  8. Andrew Burn Says:

    Hello Michael – thanks for this comment. I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for how multimodal design – of the world, of the learning experience, and by the learner – changes, adapts or extends the nature of learning. I’m also thinking, as i’ve done with games in the past, of how dramatised configurations of multimodal resources allow for kinds of symbolic presence which make specific differences to learning compared with conventional VLE’s on the one hand, and face-2-face on the other. But we’ll see what happens.
    On the question of your students, we were thinking more of cultural questions like identity, experience of popular media, etc – but we can certainly put your idea to the teachers on the courses when they arrive in the autumn?

  9. socialworlds Says:

    Hello Emma,
    There’s a machinima page at the DiGRA SIG on games and film where information about your work would be very welcome. The SIG blog is at http://gamefilmsig.wordpress.com/

  10. Brian Quinn Says:

    Hi Diane,

    I finally got up the nerve and joined SL. I wanted to make some terrain with overlays like geology+ stats various kinds. However need an island which is $US 1600? Now that is a bit steep.

    Have you seen Knightsbridge in SL from debsregent.com? Her real name is Deb Butler. Interesting.I just asked if I could make Harrods in exchange for playing with some terrain.

    Also http://slbestpractices2007.wikispaces.com/PresentationSchedule

    Cynthia Calonge has some interesting ideas. She is at that conf.

    Anyone know of sandbox devoted to messing about with sand itself….

    brian quinn

  11. diane Says:

    Hello Brian,
    We’re not buying an island either! Thanks for the links, I will look these things up.
    re: A sandbox for sand. At the recent eduserv symposium Hamish MacLeod, University of Edinburgh gave a presentation. Terrain and rocks (and sky diving) were mentioned. There’s more information here:

  12. Mizuko Jun Says:

    What courses will you be teaching? Are they open to SL citizens?


  13. socialworlds Says:

    That’s an interesting question. For the moment we plan to teach 4 sessions in total, two linked to the Institute of Education’s MA in Media, Culture and Communications, and two linked to the MA in ICT and Education. We won’t be starting before October, and we do not have a policy about whether they are open. Perhaps you can check back with us in a few months? And if you are interested in finding out more about these particular MA’s, please see the IOE site for more information – the link is on the blogroll. Also, there are some links to other teaching/classes going on in SL listed on the resources page. These might also be of interest.
    Best wishes,

  14. Michael Vallance Says:

    Andrew – thank you for the response. I will pop b this project after October to see how you are doing. I will be conducting research on Digital Interactive Virtual Environments (DIVE) – yes, just made that up! – in the coming months 🙂

  15. Marcus Romer Says:

    This project coincides with our creation of a performing arts digital hub in Second Life. we are a theatre company who are funded to develop new ways of working with new audiences and we are researching connections and creative possibilities with learning and education in SL

    for more info a link to our theatre hub is on our pilot-theatre.com website


    Marcus Romer
    Artistic Director
    Pilot Theatre
    York Theatre Royal

  16. diane Says:

    Hello Marcus, thanks for your comment. We have a small drama and education element (there’s a post called ‘project meeting July 16th’ under Project Updates that mentions our interests…plus it’s at the end of the long Game Diary page)
    Also, the Eduserv Foundation are funding a project called
    SLEUTH – Second Life Educational Undertakings in Theatre History (more information)
    I look forward to checking out your website and finding out more about your work in SL.

  17. diane Says:

    PS! You might also find this ‘call for expressions of interest’, interesting, if you’ve not seen it already.
    Project Funding: SLEUTH – Second Life Educational Undertakings in Theatre History.

  18. Brian Quinn Says:

    Diane, Hi. Well RMIT uni in Melbourne Au (doing PhD there on this sort of stuff)let me borow an Island between semesters. So with only 10 days I had a go at making The Macedon Ranges. I had to do it at a small scale so avatars are giants. http://slurl.com/secondlife/RMIT%20DSC%20Island/167/212/24

    The trees are really grass and weeds and one tiny house is still too large. Ah well a brief sketch. I have a few bushfires going. If you have googleearth you can right click on the posters/boxes near Hanging Rock and Googleearth opens up showing the same area in 3D. There’s another poster/box that links to wikimapia and another one to youtube with a video of a Trainz game I made of the same area.

    Just a rough sketch but seems pretty good for rural community decision making, training ,ed and such like. To get in you will have to search groups for RMIT DSC Island Access Group. Join and then waltz in. I like fierce criticism so don’t hold back… 🙂

  19. socialworlds Says:

    Hello Brian,
    Between the mountains and the bushfires and Hanging Rock (that’s one very disturbing movie…) it sounds impressive, yet terrifying.
    I look forward to visiting!
    What are your research questions? For your doctorate I mean (I know we talked about this at the start of this year…)

  20. Brian Quinn Says:

    Thanks for your comments. It does get a bit scary if you type smoke near Hanging Rock next to the posters or whatever they call them in SL. The feeling of disorientation in a smoky bushfire is quite strong especially when you find yourself wandering through the flames.

    It is just a sketch well sort of a mash up with geospatial stuff. I’m looking forward to creating the “game” which is the hardest part funnily enough. It has to have a good “story” I find.

    Here’s my research questions embedded in part of a chapter I’m writing.

    “Research programme
    This research will investigate how improvised communication systems and the
    delivery of information can be simulated in a game. It will also evaluate how people, given the task of decision making in troubling circumstances and who may have difficulty navigating, would be best assisted by visualisations, to not only find the way but also to determine their best outcome.

    The key research questions that this research addresses are:
    • Which theories of game and game design, psychology, spatial cognition,
    navigation, time sensitive spatial decision making (TSSDM) and learning are most suitable for developing design principles for a navigation and TSSDM computer game supported with visualisations and mobile devices?
    • What are the design principles for visualisations that best support Egocentric and Allocentric Navigation and TSSDM under stressful conditions?
    • What are the most suitable game design criteria for developing navigation and TSSDM skills?
    • To what extent can navigation and TSSDM performance improve by using
    computer games?

    Allocentric and Egocentric Navigation processes are affected by spoken and text discussions
    and other emotional, social and cognitive processes required for a group’s TSSDM.
    The research proposes that timely, appropriate visualisations can relieve some of this
    pressure on thinking, and emotional and social processes. This should then enable
    the group, with their leaders, to make better decisions. It further proposes that this
    can be shown or tested within the framework of a computer game. The computer game can be tested in its suitability for rehearsing or gaining skills in navigation and TSSDM especially in conjunction with visualizations and mobile devices.

    This research will develop theory to guide the development of a pilot game suitable
    and appropriate for application in this area of training associated with decision making
    in fraught circumstances. It will evaluate the potential for the game to train for TSSDM involving navigation and thus for the system to improve disaster response in real world settings. The original contribution of the research will be the determination of whether a network of people using visualizations delivered on mobile devices supporting cognitive and emotional abilities and navigation, ensures that getting lost is less likely, and better TSSDM more certain.”

    fierce crit welcome, I prefer to bleed now rather than later 🙂 I promise not to be so long winded in the future

  21. Brian Quinn Says:


    Join Group called RMIT DSC Island Access, you can find it by Searching Groups for it.

    Then you can drive the go karts and fly the helicopter. If you set the view distance quite short you wont see the other island and its buildings.

  22. Moon Eggplant Says:

    Hi Diane, I look forward to seeing how the project is progressing at the meting of the 20th September…..

  23. socialworlds Says:

    Thanks M. Eggplant!
    See you on the 20th. And meanwhile, just in case the suspense is getting to you (!!) there are various ‘project updates’ posted here…

  24. Mirjam Winkelmolen Says:

    Great research subject.
    A few years ago I did research at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands on the subject of regulative activities (orientating, planning, monitoring, grounding, instructing,checking, evaluating of the learning process) of group-learners (middle school) using chat in the educational version of the 3D-virtual world Active Worlds. Here’s an article about that project: http://edu.fss.uu.nl/ord/fullpapers/Meijden.doc
    It’s in Dutch!!! Maybe it’s usefull to you. If you are interested in a translation / more info, please contact me.
    Good luck with the research! I’m curious for the conclusions.
    Mirjam Winkelmolen

  25. Mark Gaved Says:

    Hi all

    great research project! You might be interested to look at the work we’ve been doing in Teen Second Life at the Open University: http://www.schome.ac.uk/

    kind regards
    Mark Gaved

  26. socialworlds Says:

    Hello Thanks Mark – We’ve been in touch with some of you Schomers, especially Britta working at the Schome Park media centre, (see the article ‘Teaching Machinima’ under ‘pages’ of this blog). We’ll be visiting the OU on 23rd of November for a CALRG seminar. See you there?

  27. Hari Indran Says:

    I am currently doing the MA in ICT at the IoE.
    I found this site whilst looking over the LKL research projects. This looks like a fascinating research project. As an avid Word of Warcraft player myself, I will be watching this space very closely!

    Best of luck,

    Hari Indran

  28. Richard Noss Says:

    Such a fascinating topic – Can’t wait for a sober analysis of learning in social worlds. Interested to know what the four sessions will be: i suspect that learning will be highly contingent on – among other things – the knowledge domain involved. And how will you measure learning – always a difficulty if the learning has taken place with a transformational technology which is then dispensed with when learning is tested (sorry – can see the problem but no quick solution). What a long post .. was supposed to be just the first four words 🙂

  29. Andrew Burn Says:

    All good questions, Richard! i think you’re right about the domains of knowledge. But also, I don’t think – at least in the case of our MA – that we’ll measure learning in relation to the SL experience. But we will be able to analyse communicative, dramatic, performative aspects of learning, and make some comparisons of these to typical face-to-face sessions and VLE experience in this particular course. I think it’ll be interesting and useful.

  30. Bob Brown Says:

    Ah, wish i could make it. I was down in london talking to a couple of colleges last week about SL training and land 🙂 now to talk my boss into another trip 😀

    On the subject of sim pricing, and ignoring the shouts of ‘Spam!’ we are setting up an main grid estate (teen grid security is something we are hitting a rightly and understandable wall with) purely dedicated to educators and related business. We have seen educators buying up land near all kinds of places and are concerned about the ‘distractions’ of the more colourful aspects of SL. Smaller plots of land will be available from us at near cost (a sim is now US$1000 btw and if you are thinking about getting one if you’d connect it to our estate that would be great) to educators so we can have a sandbox area to share and collaborate on with each group chipping in a small amount to offset costs and in return for our support throughout. We are offering the same but with pricing just a little more to related business, for example; we are in talks with a couple of major music/media equipment producers who want to work with the students they have within their academies. We are totally dedicated to making VLE’s useful, functional and legitimate especially having seen the successes we have been having here with retention and results. If anyone is interested email me at BBrown@Preston.ac.uk or i’m Dreddpiratebob Streeter in SL (beat island Sim, though its under a major revamp for the summer). All help/advice/interest welcome! You might have seen us at AOC, and we are aiming to blow you away at BETT next year 🙂

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