Monday, December 1, 2008

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 7

Coming in to land - Do's and Don'ts
Hi dear all:

During this week, we were asked to select two orientation spaces from the list below to be analyzed:

  • Orientation partly interactive, Virtual Ability (135, 124, 23)
  • RL Student Orientation Area, Campus (172, 90, 24)
  • NMC Orientation (107, 114, 39), and
  • Orientation Stations, Dore (32, 99)
I visited the four orientation spaces, but I chose Virtual Ability and NMC Orientation to make my main comments here.

Orientation partly interactive, Virtual Ability

The first space I visited was Virtual Ability. I was delighted with that space. I think it provides the necessary guidance to make a 'just born' SL avatar happy and confident. The arrows, images and explanations are very important for a newbie. A person who is entering in-world for the first time needs to be treated as as young child. All information you can give him/her will be appreciated and this space takes that child by his/her hand teaching him/her the whole process to control and learn from his/her avatar and his/her environment, step by step. I also liked the calm and peaceful environment provided by this space, the games incorporated, and rewards when tasks are well done.

In Virtual Ability, I met Pecos Kid. He is one of VA mentors. He asked me about the orientation space and my experience there. We enjoyed chatting for a while. He taught me how to climb a tree, something I've never done in RL. It was exciting. I took several snapshots during my visit. I really enjoyed it.

NMC Orientation

Regarding NMC Orientation, it seems to be more sofisticated, more serious, more elegant perhaps. It provides another interesting orientation space for newbies. I think students can feel comfortable, and they will be able to learn a lot. However, I think this space demands a higher competency level than Virtual Ability, and more attention. But, well, it depends on the learner's maturity or learning style.

In NMC, I met my friend Tamara Ashton (Jennifer Verschoor in RL) and we explored the orientation island together. We checked, step by step, all what we were supposed to know according to the training received with Languagelab, until we got to a video station. We got distracted there. I saw San Francisco's trolley, which made me remind my visit to that city. That was our first distractor, then we walked around and passed over the Golden Gate bridge. We completely forgot the other stations and we never came back to complete the steps, but we have come several times to plan our micro-class. The fact of not finishing the circuit indicates that something wrong is happening. Perhaps, it is too long, or it has some distractors on the way to make the SL learner get some rest. I'm not clear about the purpose of this specific design. I really liked it, but it would be advisable to have someone around who provides some help or guidance. We have never found anybody there.

Tamara Ashton on the left

The other two spaces, Dore and Campus seemed too simple to me. I don't think they provide enough information to the learner. On the contrary, the learner can get lost and feel frustrated. There is no place to go, nothing interesting to see, except for shopping. I found a MVN mentor in Campus, she asked my opinion about the space. We had a very short chat and said goodbye. In Dore, I found a stranger who seemed to a mentor. Tamara Ashton (Jennifer) and me were put off. I don't know why. We couldn't come back. Wow, I'm happy not to be a newbie. I would have felt very bad and I would probably never come back to SL.

In sum, orientation spaces should be:

1. Goal oriented and well guided. Arrows, images and explanations should be clear and enough in order to lead the learner step by step to reach the goal (s).
2. Interactive. It should offer many opportunities for the learner to interact with the environment.
3. Task-based and well graded. Activities must have a purpose and must go from simpler to more complex.
4. Encouraging. It should incorporate games and provide positive feedback when tasks are well done.
5. Pleasant. The learner should feel comfortable to develop SL abilities under a relaxing and peaceful environment.
6. A learning facilitator. It should provide some help if needed. There must be a mentor or helper ready to give a hand to those who need it.
7. Friendly. It should encourage learners to come back for more practice or just to check some tasks.
8. Fun. It should include funny activities for learners to enjoy while exploring and discovering the SL new world.

Orientation spaces should NOT:

1. Provide only written instructions. They should have enough images, pictures or sounds to guide the learner to reach the goals set.
2. Hide signals or simply not show any kind of learning path.
3. Provide too short explanations or descriptions.
4. Be dark spaces or desolated. They must be built by specialists in graphic design, architects or people who know about online space management.
5. Leave the learner by his/her own. Some kind of help must be offered.
6. Provide negative feedback.
7. Be static.
8. Be boring.

I'm not sure whether a SL orientation space should have a linear path or not, what I do think is that all orientation spaces should provide different possibilities for all different learning styles.

Well, that’s all folks.

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