Last week I posted a process for developing educational resources through Second Life. We are still sorting out terminology but we agree with the general direction and so can proceed – thinking about better terminology as we go.

We have 3 projects to pass through this process:

  1. Foundation interview skills
  2. Midwifery
  3. Second Life orientation

The midwifery project seems to be going first and Sarah Stewart is the lead educator for the project. The first stage is focusing on the building of a virtual birthing unit, with information resources in it, and offline resources to compliment the build. Sarah has written up a view of where the users of this development will be at mentally before they engage with this project.

Here are some excerpts from Sarah’s consideration of this context:

In relation to experience in computing and the Internet:

  • Students are familiar with programs such as Word and Powerpoint.
  • Their knowledge and use of the Internet varies considerably, and it is erroneous to make judgements about their use of the Internet according to age ie just becase they are young doesn’t mean they use the Internet for anything more than connecting with friends on sites like Facebook.
  • The younger students all have Facebook or Bebo accounts, but they do not know about or how to use tools that can help their studying, such as Delicious or RSS.
  • They would know about YouTube, but I don’t think they would think to use it for educational purposes.
  • Use of Flickr is minimal and they have never heard of Slideshare, or recognise it as an educational resource.
  • The last two groups of students have made their own class Facebook/Bebo accounts. I don’t know how they use it because they have not included lecturers in their group.
  • Very few students would have heard of Second Life, and probably none of them are gamers.

In terms of ACCESS to computing and Internet:

…students have been given a computer specs list that they must conform to… [and] will be expected to access resources from their home computer as independent learners…restrictions at the moment appear to be where students work

In terms of support:

At this stage, Second Life is not a resource that is being used outside of the SLENZ project.

In terms of motivation:

I would say that motivation levels would not be high unless the students could see that there was something in it for them…the lecturers have mixed feelings about the Second Life project…they are stretched to capacity, especially with the development of the new program. They do not want to have to take on yet another project that is going to consume a lot of time, to both learn the skills to navigate Second Life and teach the students.

So this sets the scene for what we are developing resources for in Second Life.

Now we are in the process of devising ideas for resources and activities. The first thing Sarah has done is outline various formal and informal learning objectives. In Sarah’s first blog post that articulates an idea for learning activities for the birthing unit Sarah says:

My vision for the birth unit stage 1 is that it integrates into first year papers that look at birth from a philosophical point of view, looking at foundation knowledge and getting students to think about why things are the way they are in the birthing environment.

I also see the birth unit giving us the opportunity to demonstrate to students what research evidence is, and how and why we base our midwifery decisions on certain research. This would integrate into the first year research stream.

And then Sarah links out to a GoogleDoc where formal learning objectives are stated:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the midwife in the normal childbirth process;
  • demonstrate effective evidence based, midwifery practice guided by a sound knowledge base.

At this point my question to Sarah is whether or not there are more of these formal learning objectives to base birthing unit activities around, because what Sarah sets out as informal objectives are not necessarily covered in the formal objectives. This is OK of course, but looking back at the attitudes and motivations of the students:

I would say that motivation levels would not be high unless the students could see that there was something in it for them

And so I wonder if it is the formal learning objectives that will determine that motivation. Hopefully there are more formal learning objectives we can refer to, or we need to devise an activity that has people considering the value of these extra and informal learning objectives that Sarah states (see below for one idea).

Secondly, it is quite difficult to think of how the virtual birthing unit can be used to meet these formal learning objectives. Certainly the VBU can be used to stimulate thinking along the lines of the informal. However, Sarah’s first activity may do just that:

To fulfill learning objectives

  • write a reflective piece?
  • Lead class discussion in class facebook group ?
  • Treasure hunt questionnaire is integrated into research paper ie student must summarise research evidence they found?

General Instructions:

Go to the inworld birthing unit (SLURL/landmark) & meet instructor. Instructor will then give students instructions about how to work their way around the BU.

Instructions on how to click on objects to go to external links provided eg note card?

Ok great! All good ideas I think.. And Sarah goes on to list the types of SL objects that will be needed, which really helps the developers prepare.

Sarah will need to write up brief text for each of those objects at some stage soon so that people can draw down information in SL relating to the many objects – and I’d suggest sampling Wikipedia for each of them.. and if it ain’t on Wikipedia – may as well put it there and kill two birds with one stone 🙂

Here’s an idea to add to the mix

Expressing this idea is a little difficult because of the limitations implied by the formal learning objectives, but my idea attempts to address the engagement and motivational issues. Following Sarah’s GoogleDoc lead…

Make a short video documentary about the virtual birthing unit.


To create an informative video that can be viewed on and offline, passed by email, and embedded in blogs and course management systems as a way to inform people about the project and motivate them to take a look for themselves. The video will include moving images of the building process and an audio track that includes: interviews with the researcher and architect who devised the birthing unit; the Second Life developers and their process of building it; and the lead educator and her thoughts on how the virtual unit would be used in someone’s course of study, and where the development will be heading.

Here’s an example of a short documentary that is like an infomercial for SL:

The learning activity:

The video is made available on Youtube,, Internet Archive, Polytechnic websites and learning management systems. It is also on DVD, Data CD and USB Flashdrive. An audio only, and comic strip version-for-print is also available.

Here is an example of a comic strip made from Second Life:

Creating comics with SecondLife & ComicLife By Steven Parker

Creating comics with SecondLife & ComicLife By Steven Parker

Staff and students receive and watch the video, either through email notification, through a colleagues blog, on the LMS or from the CD. Those without such access receive the print and/or audio version.

The video references orientation resources such as “how to start using Second Life” and “what sort of computer and Internet connection do I need”.

A meeting date is set for people to arrive and meet at the virtual birthing unit for an official launch and orientation. Footage from this event is recorded and later added to the video afterwards.

Specific requirements

  1. A finished build of the virtual birthing unit and the objects and information needed in it.
  2. Video footage of the building process
  3. Audio interviews with the birthing unit research and architecture team talking about their initial project and the thinking behind it; the SL developer team and how and why they decided to build the unit in SL, and the lead educators and what their ideas are for the educational uses of the SL unit.
  4. An edited 5 – 10 minute documentary combining the audio and the video into a “infomercial” for the virtual birthing unit.
  5. An audio track only version for slowband access.
  6. A comic strip print version for offline use.
  7. Links to existing “how-to” resources for access and using SL.
  8. A date for the virtual birthing unit launch.

Possible extra activities

  1. Compare and contrast the features in the virtual birthing unit with the features of an in-world hospital, or home birth location. Extend this to real world hospitals and home-birth locations.
  2. Edit the wikipedia entries for each of the objects in the birthing unit to a point where the text can be used in the build, or that the build informs the articles – such as the images from the build being used in the wikipedia articles.
  3. Staff and students take “snapshots” of their avatars in the virtual birthing unit and use those images to formulate comments and opinion in forums or on their blogs about particular aspects of the design

The next step, if Sarah agrees it is worth developing this resource and activity is to process the information here, into development specifications for the programmers and media producers. We are working on a document for that, and it is used by the developers to gather information from documents such as Sarah’s and mine here.