I posed the question, "What's the point of giving a lecture in a virtual world?" on the SLED email list and invited people to share how lectures are valuable when done in a virtual world.

Staying on task in a lecture in SL can be challenging for students who are so passive. ? I always struggle with the idea of using a virtual world with so many possibilities for such a passive activity as lectures. What makes all the effort of using a virtual world worth doing for a lecture that is easier to give in a web conferencing tool or as a recording?

Lectures in virtual worlds (as opposed to using a recorded lecture on a website)
  • Questions can be asked in the lecture from the audience.
  • Encourage the back channel in the text chat especially to share web links or other stuff you have invited students to prepare in advance. This can be recorded.
  • Giving distance learning students a feeling of being part of a class and the institution.
  • Using recorded lectures and the teacher takes on the role of facilitating the discussion about it with students or even get them to do or make something as a result of listening to the lecture recording.
  • Leaving recorded lectures for small groups to watch together so they can discuss it while watching. Maybe give them a task to do or a stimulating question or point of view to take.
  • Have students or groups of students give the lectures not the teacher.
  • Give lectures in sims that are relevant to the topic like WWII stuff in the Krystalnacht sim of the Holocaust Museum or biology lecture in an underwater reef.

From Peter Miller at the University of Liverpool (with some additions by me in brackets)

I don't claim to have done all these but seeing as you ask for further ideas:

* Rez objects during the presentation to point out features or make comparisons (as I did during my VWBPE preso but few others appeared to)
  • Use a camera control tool like CamSync to ensure students are looking at the appropriate feature
  • Use a presentation board that allows students to add push pins on selected slides to indicate choices (or use other voting tools)
* Use shared media web tools that update synchronously so you can get students to participate in making lists or completing diagrams, e.g. Solvr (__http://www.a.freshbrain.com/solvr/__); more here __http://www.delicious.com/pmiller/slsm__ (or even a shared Google doc).
* Use a 3D mindmap as a lecture outline or to model the progress of a lecture, i.e. build as you go, e.g. with Wiki3D_Builder
  • Get students to interact with rezzed structures or, indeed, build their own mindmap on the fly
  • Get students to use their avatars to indicate Likert scale responses using a tool like Opinionator where avatars automatically generate a pie chart depending on which station they move to (or use a more conventional polling tool)
  • Arrange breakout groups where students can change location and discuss a question followed by feedback to the class
  • Have guest speakers participate remotely and take students on an inworld tour afterwards
  • Use Google Moderator to collate/vote on questions (as VWER do -- not sure whether that works synchronously on a prim); alternatively use AngryBeth Shortbread's handsup chair so students can signal when they have questions (Global Kids have a lightbulb that does something similar)
  • Use an inworld timer to countdown when you ask questions
  • Give the audience gestures and sounds they can play when appropriate (you might not want to go as far as the Theatron folk who give the audience fruit they can throw)
Now some of these are do-able using 2D approaches like web conferencing softare such as Elluminate or Adobe Connect (voting, backchannel, modify slide). That said, it may be ignorance on my part but presos there tend to be rather linear as it's hard to have multiple foci for attention on the go, for example. Much easier in virtual worlds.
I agree that having multiple screens or contexts available is potentially a significant benefit. Of course, these could be in different locations so the lecture might become peripatetic and hence less wooden.

* Delivering pre-prepared text chat via a HUD device such as SpeakEasy means that you can provide for those who for one reason of another cannot hear; it also provides a transcript while giving the speaker more time to scan the backchannel and, where appropriate, respond in voice.
  • Visually impaired students can have inline text to voice conversion
  • Google Translate-based devices, worn as attachments or embedded in the viewer, provide a measure of multi-lingual support if required.
Stealing a few ideas from the Avatar Repertory Company, you could also have the audience dress in appropriate costume and use the seating to initiate animations (I've worshipped, danced and fallen down a rabbit hole at ARC performances). While the costume aspect might seem far-fetched, some sims such as the World War I poetry sim do provide appropriate dress.

The animations are probably at the borderline of what is readily accessed but arguably easier to organise than this rather famous video of protein synthesis interpreted via dance from the '70s: __http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9dhO0iCLww__ .

Of course, a little of this sort of thing could go a long way...

From Samantha Atkins
I don't see why a second life lecture need be any more passive than is in 1st life and prehaps less so as the students text thoughts and questions dynamically while googling side notes. But standing woodenly is a bit strange. It is easier to have multiple screens of information, at least with MOAP, than to have multiple screens in most small gatherings iRL.

Research papers

Thesis on Lecture MethodsDianne Bishop Masters Thesis on Lecture Methods in Second Life