If at first you don’t succeed…

Well, in the end I didn’t get the HEA grant I applied for – the one I mentioned here, and the one that was going to give Cardiff University a presence in Second Life.  I’m a bit ambivalent about this: on the one hand I REALLY wanted to get my teeth into Second Life again and was really excited about building a virtual copy of Cardiff Castle and Bute Park.  On the other hand, my job here in the University has become incredibly busy, so I just couldn’t see how or when I was going to find the time to build and manage a sim and train staff and students to use it.

Recent visits to Second Life have left me a little downhearted: I had to return my free office space after UK Education Island was sold off, Bangor University – a long standing presence, and one that was only there a couple of m0nths ago – seems to have gone, as has one of my favourite non-academic sims, The Doctor Who Experience at Cardiff Bay.  I remember back in 2010 when I was building Cornwall College Island that I would spend hours wandering around Porth Tigr watching Krotons do battle with Daleks in Roald Dahl Place.  I bought my first full avatar costume there (a Cyberman) and used to dream of  one day visiting the new home of Doctor Who in real life.  I guess now the real thing is almost literally on my doorstep, I should be satisfied.  I should also remember that one of the great things about Second Life is that it’s organic, and its sims come and go at the top of a virtual hat.  I suppose, like Stewart Lee in 1996,  I just want the moon on a stick…

I have also been thinking about what use we were going to make of Second Life, and whether it would be worth taking another look at this. I still believe that this is a great place for students to meet up, collaborate, to hold tutorials and supervision meetings (as was motive behind my HEA grant application) – but one thing that kind of frustrated me initially – the fact that the space we were planning to build was for medical PhD students only – could now be looked at again.  Instead of a space for just a few, why not have a space for the entire School?  That way overseas undergraduates can meet with local post grad students, medical simulations can be carried out, we could build a virtual birthing unit…and the University would have a larger footprint in virtual worlds  – something bigger to shout about.

How I get the ball rolling is something else.  The University is vast.  Who do I talk to?  Mentioning Second Life to people who know little or nothing about it is a bit like lighting the proverbial blue touch paper.  Most people don’t get it.  At worst, they see it as a virtual knocking shop.  At best as a waste of time.  What’s worrying is that I was using those sentences back in 2009 when I first became involved.  The Great Mindset Shift I assumed was going to happen just…hasn’t happened.

A business proposal to my line manager (a very IT savvy nerd – in the nicest possible way) could be a positive start.  Wish me luck…

2 thoughts on “If at first you don’t succeed…

  1. Hi Bex, sorry you didn’t get the HEA grant 😦 If you’d like to meet up sometime inworld and I can show you what we’re doing on the MA Education in Virtual Worlds and what my colleagues in UWE are doing with VWs for simulations in, for example, Finance Auditing, Forensics crime scenes, food poisoning outbreak simulations etc etc, just let me know. Perhaps these examples could help to bring round those who aren’t familiar with VWs. Also, if you’d like to partner up on an initial project on one of our islands so you can show the doubters what can actually be done, I’d be happy to find a way to do that to get you started. VWs seem to be slow burn technologies that take quite a time to get into the education psyche, but we have 20 new students on the MA this year, and interest continues to grow, so VWs aren’t dead yet :-).
    Cheers, Liz Falconer (my WordPress presence is as EJ Kay!)


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