The finishing line becomes the starting line

June 26, 2011

The task this week required students to explore SL further and write a blog post about their experiences.  One student was frustrated with her experience because she could not find the place she was searching for.  On the other hand, another student really enjoyed visiting some places and even created a slide show of his exploration, however like the other student he couldn’t find anyone who wanted to engage in conversation.  Encouragingly one student had fully embraced second life and expressed that she felt very comfortable interacting with others.  During conversation she referred to a few residents as her best friends in SL, with whom she meets on a regular basis on a variety of sims.

This task encouraged students to be reflective and critical of their experience which was evident in their blog posts.  Unfortunately one student was unable to access the course this week due to not having any internet connection and therefore couldn’t attend the SL meeting.    I can imagine he must have been really frustrated.  Due to having similar problems myself  last week, I can empathise with his feelings of detachment.  In light of this, I sent him an encouraging and reassuring e.mail, which I feel is important.

This weeks meeting in SL again showed that the strengths of using this virtual platform for educational purposes greatly outweigh the weaknesses.  Initially there were problems with students logging on and with the voice chat slowing down or breaking up throughout.  Apart from these disturbances, the session was really worthwhile and the students appeared to be enjoying the experience.  I also felt more relaxed in this environment and tried to strengthen my facilitation skills through listening carefully to what students were saying, asking them to expand on statements, encouraging everyone to share their views and making sure that I chose certain topics to develop conversation.

The conversation  flowed nicely, but I needed to be aware of the time in order to cover the topics planned, but at the same time encourage interactions which students were engaged with.  Within the conversation, students frequently reflected on their experiences in SL.  I drew on a student who was becoming more familiar with SL to advise students on the best way to interact with other residents in SL.  This really benefited the others as they were apprehensive about interacting in SL.  The advice this student offered was encouraging.  I suggested that the same student take the others on a quick trip to a place of her choice.  The idea was to exploit the immersive environments potentials for conversation.  After ten minutes of exploration I teleported them back to the classroom to discuss their experiences with which they were very enthusiastic about.  I believe that this session in SL was reflective and students took more control over the process.

At the end of our session I asked students to offer their opinions about the course.  All students mentioned that expressing their feelings and interacting in English through their blogs and in group meetings in SL had increased their confidence in such away that they felt more encouraged to take their IELTs test so they could study in other countries.  Positivity was expressed for both blog writing and using SL and they explained that they would continue to use these platforms in the future.  I was especially pleased to hear this, as one of my main objectives was to improve their confidence expressing themselves in English and also to introduce different WEB 2.0 tools which could encourage autonomous and constructivist learning.

The month has not been as successful as I would have liked it to be, but I believe that the students have benefited overall from taking part in the online course.  I made sure that the requirements to complete each task were clearly outlined and provided examples of what was expected.  Although, while this can be highly time-consuming I firmly believe it made the process more understandable for the students and reduced any problems occurring during the week.

My course has come to an end and its now time to reflect on the process and use this as a basis to improve future practice and redesign the course to offer future participants a more beneficial experience.  This has been an insightful experience into the complex role of the e-moderator and I’ve truly benefited from this process.  The course has now finished but it’s just the start for both myself and the students to continue learning within such a stimulating and evolving environment  with endless opportunities.

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