Archive for the ‘2016 Class summaries’ Category

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Class 2: Settling in

September 29, 2016

The class started out with some housekeeping. All participants were reminded to select the DIT Module group and activate it. This will allow us to keep in contact and also provide security and privacy for the class. We did have a stranger wander into the building during class and although he didn’t say anything it is distracting when somebody is walking around. John will restrict access to the DIT campus to DIT Module group members so remember to activate the group or you will not be able to get into class next week!

Seven of you had given John a link to your blogs during the week. All blogs included the first post and John commented on each one. Many of you also wrote something for the ‘about’ page. This is important because it gives visitors a hook, something to let them know who you are, your credentials, and why your opinion is valid, important, interesting or otherwise. Those of you who have not yet set up your blogs are now a week behind in the required activities so hurry up and get blogging! Don’t forget to send a link to John so it can be given on the Virtual Environments website. John also encouraged you to read each others blogs and comment on them: get used to engaging online, opening up conversations about shared interests, opposing views or anything else. You should also read about how and when the blog will be assessed so you focus your efforts appropriately. The first assessment point is now only two weeks away. You will be expected to have the first four posts made to your blog by then so get writing.

We had a discussion about the sample blogs given in last weeks class, looking at the variety of ‘voices’ and styles. You were asked to consider these and try to identify what the authors were trying to convey and how they supported this through the design of the blog, the tone of voice used in the writing, and other aspects of the blogs. The examples showed more serious academic style bogs, a professional blog clearly used as a marketing tool and a fun blog show casing images that appealed to the writer. Explore this further, find other blogs and attempt to identify the features that make them successful or otherwise.

A straw poll was taken to identify a social app we would use for notifying any last minute changes to class, letting you know when this summary is posted, and to use as a communication platform for any other issues that might arise outside class. Two apps were proposed, Facebook and WhatsApp. Neither is currently in use by everyone in the class but the result of the poll, below, indicated a majority in favour of Facebook. We agreed to consider the outcome over the coming week and make a final decision in the next class.

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THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Explore: Get to know your class mates and explore SL together. You are to visit at least 3 locations that are new to you. Find them in search, or ask other residents for recommendations or select them at random.
  2. Write the second post: on your blog reviewing the locations you visited. Describe the places and include photos, if you can. Explain what you liked and disliked about the location and talk about any interactions you had.
  3. Read: 5 steps to build a productive and tight knit remote team
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Class 1: First meeting

September 22, 2016

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Welcome to ‘Virtual Environments: Is one life enough?’ and to Second Life for the first class! It has been noticeable in recent years that participants are navigating digital environments with greater ease and as a class you have demonstrated that definitively. Well done.

For those who may be having difficulty logging into SL or finding your way about please talk to your colleagues for advice and help.

After everyone settled down John and Locks Aichi introduced themselves and went through some housekeeping. We all added each other to our ‘friends’ list. This enables you to see when participants login to SL and you can send an instant message (IM) to each other when you are in different locations – very handy if someone gets lost in SL. John also added you to the DIT Module group and asked that you activate that group when joining the class. Think of it as your student card: it will give you access to DIT in SL. John also ensured that he knew everyone’s real identity – an important issue online where avatars and aliases allow us to present anonymously.

John explained that class will be interactive and discursive. Each week we will look at a different topic, introduced by a set text that you are asked to read before the class so as to inform the debate. It is important that everyone participates fully and engages to get full benefit from attending. You will also need to visit SL between class times to complete activities that will be set to encourage exploration. Specific activities will be set for the first few classes to get you started.

You were all asked to create a new blog for the duration of the course. You will be expected to write a weekly post describing your experience of the class and the discussions and activities in which you engage. If you keep this habit and post weekly you will avoid the burden of having to write a complete paper at the end of the module. John also explained that you will divided into groups next week to work on a project which will be presented at the final class of the semester. You are encouraged to read through the pages listed in the right hand column of this website to get full details of the project, see examples of previous student blogs and get an idea of what to expect in the rest of the course.

We discussed what communication platform we should use to support the class. It should be one that most people use already so you are not having to introduce something new. It also means that as you are using it regularly messages about the class are less likely to be missed. Previous groups set up private Facebook groups and used twitter and LinkedIN. Other options include WhatsApp or Tinder. Think about it and we will decide next week.

You will each receive L$300 to allow you experience the economy in SL but, don’t get too excited, it is only equivalent to about US$1. Visit some shops and markets to find out how the economy functions. If you want to earn more, see if you can find a part-time job in SL.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Set up your blog: using bloggerwordpresstumblr or any other blog site. Complete the ‘About Me’ page (read some of those pages on other blogs first) and remember it is different from the first post on your blog. Write from the perspective of your avatar: the persona you will be using to explore in this module. Email a link to your blog to John.
  2. Write the first post: to your blog about your expectations for this module – what you hope to get out of it, what you think you might contribute, etc. Address the relevance of  module objectives from your perspective, ie, justify why you think they are important to you.
  3. Look at: John O’Connor’s blog and Dreamscape Diary bearing in mind what you learned today compare your own blog writing to this.
  4. Visit the following: Dolce Merda, Brain PickingsIllustration Friday, Chris BroganStyle Pantry Think about how you would identify these blog authors…what impression do you get of the person behind the blog?
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Class 12: Group presentations

May 19, 2016

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Well done to both groups – each one made a very good presentation. The content was well researched, clearly written and coherently presented. Although the slide presenter didn’t work you were able to adapt to the low-tech replacement and it didn’t impede your delivery. One group did somewhat better with the illustration while the other group were clearer about their sources. Overall, a very good effort.

Your final assignment (as described last week) is to write a post to your blog giving a critique of your presentation. You should also include the text, references and images from your presentation.

Thank you for taking part in the module and for your excellent attendance and engagement. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and that you found it a useful introduction to online collaboration.

Enjoy the summer!

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Class 11: Penultimate

May 12, 2016

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The final class before students present their group project work next week agreed to a slightly later start time of 8.30 pm on May 19th. John gave students a notecard with details of how to prepare slides for the presentation.

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If you have any questions about the project please post them to the Facebook group and John will endeavour to answer as soon as possible.

Remember that the blogs will be due for assessment next week also. Make sure you complete all the required posts and follow the guidelines and feedback you have been given throughout the module. The deadline for completing your blog is midnight Friday 20th May – they will be assessed sometime after that.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: 5 Steps to Build a Productive and Tight Knit Remote Team.
  2. Write the tenth post: to your blog after you have made your presentation next week. Describe how you think the presentation succeeded and where it could have been better. Comment on what you learnt about online collaborative working.
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Class 10: Project review

May 5, 2016

Class started with a discussion about the feedback on student blogs. We had some clarification on what ‘writing more reflectively and critically’ means. Earlier this month John suggested you read the advice given to a previous class: Blog posts and group work. If you haven’t already read it you should do so now.

John asked each group to provide an update on how the group project work is progressing. It seems that it hasn’t really gotten going properly yet. Nobody took the opportunity to meet in Second Life during last week’s class time. Some participants have been discussing the project in Facebook and both groups are planning to meet over the weekend to begin work. Following a discussion about the topic of the project where it became clear that students had not really considered the scope of the project John suggested that an extension of the presentation date by a week (from 12 May to 19 May) might be a good idea – it is justified on the basis that last week’s class was cancelled. It was agreed that students will post to Facebook on Monday giving their preference regarding the presentation date.

John also proposed that the presentations be delivered where we meet for class using the slide viewer there. Each group can use up to 10 slides in its presentation.

There was a general discussion on the topic of the project: what our workplaces are likely to look like in 2050. Using McLuhan’s suggestion that we consider how technology influences behaviour we pondered growth of online and virtual systems. History is always a good jumping off point. Would anyone in pre-industrial Europe have expected industrialisation to result in unemployment? It would probably have been inconceivable to people who starved if they didn’t work. The expectation that replacing workers with machines would lead to a golden age of leisure for all did not come to pass either. How likely is it that people will still be going to offices and factories for work by 2050? These questions should form the start of the project brainstorming exercise. Teams are expected to be asking the right questions rather than producing the right answers. Use the readings set throughout the module to inform your thinking and make sure you refer to it in your presentation.

John also reminded you of the importance of reflecting on your teamwork in the context of the talk on team work last month and writing up your thoughts in your blog.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Meet: in your groups to plan your approach to the project, decide on what aspect of the project you will explore, identify the individual tasks and prepare an outline schedule (this work was to have been done for today’s class but wasn’t).
  2. Write the ninth post: to your blog describing how your team considered the Form-Storm-Norm-Perform aspects of team work and how you addressed the various team roles.
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Class 9: Team work

April 21, 2016

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For online collaboration to lead to successful outcomes it is useful to have an understanding of how teams function. We considered the under-lying factors that influence groups and teams in real life and discussed how they might apply in the online environment. Then we examined the various roles different members of the team might play over the life-cycle of a project. You can review Sitearm Madonna’s tips and tools for online virtual collaboration and team working.

John reminded everyone of the importance of reading the project brief carefully and also paying particular attention to the assessment criteria. There is no value in working hard on something that is not required – ensure your focus is sharp and your effort is actually contributing to the required outcome. You should re-read both the brief and the assessment criteria regularly throughout the project to ensure you remain on target.

From here on your blog posts will concentrate on the development of your team and the project, referring to the principles and guidelines outlined in the class. Reflect on how these play out in reality as you work together – describe what works well for you and also the difficulties and problems you encounter and how you resolve them. Pay particular attention to  what you are learning, noting how you might do things more efficiently and effectively in any future team work. Ensure you document your contribution to the project.

As there is no formal class next week John advised that you use the time to meet in your groups in SL and get a good start to the project. You all know how difficult it can be to arrange a suitable time to meet outside of class (everyone has lots of commitments) so use this opportunity to kick start your project and settle on a working methodology that suits the members of your team. John will arrange an alternative class time through now the Facebook group.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Meet: in your groups to plan your approach to the project, decide on what aspect of the project you will explore, identify the individual tasks and prepare an outline schedule that will see you ready to present your work on May 12th.
  2. Write the eighth post: to your blog describing this meeting, your contribution and your team plan.
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Class 8: Project briefing

April 14, 2016

John gave a detailed briefing on the group project explaining how it should be approached and delivered. The key deliverable is a ten minute presentation but the purpose of the project is to give you a chance to experience working collaboratively online: including the difficulty of arranging to meet; the challenge of holding useful discussion; dividing the workload and so on.

While this aspect of the experience must be presented as part of the final project you are also asked to reflect on the weekly experience in your blog from now on. This will ensure that you receive a fair assessment of your contribution and will not be let down if team mates do not deliver as expected. You will be assessed on your contribution to the project, not simply the overall success of the final presentation.

The presentation in the final class should be delivered vocally (if anyone has problems with their voice in SL let me know) but should have a text backup using notecards. Second Life has a rich set of tools for including images, sound, movies and animation to support your talk. John demonstrated the most simple way of showing images by dragging them from your inventory to a ‘screen’ made from a simple panel. You can practice this in any number of public sandboxes located around SL.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Write the seventh post: to your blog describing how your group might meet online regularly to develop the project. Discuss the different platforms available, their pros and cons for this work; and how comfortable you think you would be with them.
  2. Meet with your team: to begin discussing your response to the project brief.
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Class 7: Medium and message

April 7, 2016

We began the class by talking about the feedback John gave on the student blogs. He reminded everyone of the importance of writing all of the required posts so you should check that you have done that now: everyone should have at least six posts written – as described in the ‘things to do before the next class’ section of all class summaries (note that the next assessment point for the blog will be following next week’s class). You might like to read advice on blog writing from Prof Dreamscape to students on this module in 2014.

Following that we had a discussion based on the the reading material provided on Marshall McLuhan and Axel Bruns. Not everyone had read the papers so we took five minutes out to do so before continuing. We looked in particular at the impact of social media apps and how they might be influencing how people interact. This was compared with older communications technology such as the land-line telephone. Using both text and voice a lively discussion ensued with everyone sharing their views.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Ensure your blog is up to date with six posts written and your bio clearly visible (the bio may relate to your avatar – in other words it may be fictional or aspirational).
  2. Read the group project brief 21st Century workplace and be prepared to interrogate it during the next class.
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Class 6: Making content

March 10, 2016

A very small class (only two participants) made discussion a little thinner than usual but Stinkylink and Rebeccahellohowru contributed valiantly to ensure a lively(ish) session, which Dudley Dreamscape joined later.

The task of buying clothing and trying to dress your avatars proved less easy than anticipated. Some ended up shirtless with floating objects they were unable to remove, or wearing unexpected items of clothing. However, engaging with the economy of SL gave an insight into the level of engagement by residents. Nevertheless, I get a strong sense that the participants this semester are somewhat bemused by SL and cannot really understand why anybody would choose to spend time in-world by choice. One participant described SL as a chatroom with pictures. I have frequently used the same descriptor and assumed the pictures were a useful addition to communication but, the question now seems to be: do the pictures serve any useful purpose? After all, the visual quality of SL has not seen a step change since its inception in the early 2000s. It remains cartoonish and very crude when compared with similar online worlds created for gaming (World of Warcraft, Call of Duty etc). The most significant issue may well prove to be the mediation by an avatar. Until we can insert ourselves directly into the virtual world the sense of distance may continue to be off-putting to the average person.

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Also, it seems that the plethora of communication media such as WhatsApp, Whisper, Yik Yak, Instagram, Tinder and Snapchat that facilitate text, pic and video sharing are becoming integral to social engagement. Online and virtual tools are no longer used primarily to bridge geographic distance but are part of normal everyday interaction. Many of these apps are marketed on the premise of impermanence – claiming that the content is deleted or disappears within a certain timeframe. While this replicates real life conversation giving a sense of anonymity and safety to the user it should be treated with caution.

We also discussed how participants are getting on with their blogs and I gave feedback on the week four assessment reminding you to ensure you are up to date with your posts. The next assessment point is after week eight so you have time to catch up if necessary. This led to a discussion about content creation informed by Axel Bruns’ lecture From Prosumer to Produser that was set for viewing last week. If you missed the class and have not read it please do so before the next class.

Finally, the brief for the group project has been posted to the blog. Please read it and if you have any questions post them to the Facebook group discussion and I will do my best to respond as soon as possible.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message? by Mark Lederman.
  2. Write the sixth post: to your blog reflecting on your own use of online social media.
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Class 5: Personal branding

March 3, 2016

There was a smaller class group this week so, after waiting for the others to turn up we started a discussion on the assignment completed during the week. All of you visited clubs in SL and discovered the peculiarity of DJs, performers and the joy of dancing in this environment. You also discovered that communities form around such regular events, much as they do in real life. Also, as in real life, it may not always be easy to get access to the community – people may not be willing to engage with newbies. We will return to a discussion about communities in a later class. Some of you were unable to animate your avatar to get it to dance and those who did were unable to stop dancing! John gave everyone an object that stops animations by dragging it onto your avatar – a handy device to keep in your inventory.

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We decided to visit the Bauhaus Museum in SL for the second part of the class. It is a recreation of the famous early 20th Century school in Weimar Germany presenting information about the staff and students along with an exhibition of Bauhaus work and Bauhaus-inspired work. The spacious venue is also ideal for hosting an impromptu discussion. Although there were other visitors viewing the work it was possible to sit comfortably and discuss the reading material on personal branding.

John reminded the class that the first assessment of the blogs will take place sometime after 12 midnight on Sunday 6th March, so ensure your blog posts are all up to date before the end of the weekend.

John also dispersed cash in the form of L$. Each student received L$300 to facilitate their interaction with the SL economy. Despite the appearance of immense generosity on his part John explained that the exchange value is somewhere in and about US$1. No opportunity to get carried away, therefore. You should also be aware that there is plenty of free stuff available around SL if you go searching. Try experimenting with clothing: how to change outfits (you will find a wardrobe in your inventory folder); accessories such as jewellery and watches; objects such as mugs and glasses, tools etc. You need to spend some time playing in SL so that you get a sense of the possibilities.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Visit: shops in SL and make a purchase using the L$ given to you in the class.
  2. Write the fifth post: to your blog describing your experience of the consumer economy in SL.  
  3. Lecture: From Prosumer to Produser: Understanding User-Led Content Creation by Prof Axel Bruns (Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland Institute of Technology) explains his theory of user-led collaborative content creation.
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