Enterprise Education using Second Life

Below is a funding application document written by Kate and Sean Farrell for NESTA Futurelab. If it can be of use to anyone, that's fab. Please just let me know. At some point I'll rewrite it to be more useful on this wiki.

Education and Enterprise

Using a Multi-User Virtual Environment

We propose to build an educational space in a multi-user virtual environment called Second Life. This will be a virtual learning space in which students collaborate in groups to learn new skills. The project will support deep learning of enterprise and social skills.
Students will be given the challenge of building a virtual business. They will create, promote and sell their products to other users in this virtual environment.
Teachers will be trained in the skills required to use the program in class. They will then be supported in using the resources with students.

Detailed description
A virtual classroom will be developed as a relaxed and welcoming environment where students can learn. This will be a collaborative and creative 3D environment in which teachers can run educational activities.
Target users will initially be school students aged 13-16, as well as their teachers. We will develop activities for these students to learn how to use the Second Life environment. We will then challenge students to develop enterprise skills in teamwork and creative thinking.
A successful pilot will advertise and promote the concept, provide training sessions, documentation and lesson plans for teachers. Support and training may be provided both either in person or remotely to teachers involved in the project.
We will help the teachers develop techniques for behaviour and classroom management, and for trouble-shooting technical issues while using Second Life. They will also be able to use resources and settings 'in-world' to monitor and manage off-task behaviour from students. We want to ensure that the activities are achievable and motivating for the students so that off-task behaviour is minimised.
Teachers will introduce students to the user interface, and show them how to move around and communicate in the world. Support for students will be supplied in the form of video clips, interactive objects and written instructions.
Students will be given access to several self-paced learning areas in the virtual environment to learn specific skills to help them with the tasks. Students will have the option to access several tutorials to learn about more advanced objects manipulation and scripting. There will be space for pupils to experiment with building and adapting the surrounding environment.
Students will work in groups to develop products to sell to other users, and will compete against other teams to make the most profit. The teams will be given objects to help them in the task. The teams will not be given the same objects so they may need to negotiate with other teams to get objects they need to complete the task.
This project will be developed to allow users to collaborate either in class or remotely. The nature of the Second Life program is ideal for distance learning and would allow home schooled students to participate fully. Second Life has proved popular with users with disabilities due to its inclusive nature, and the project will be developed so that it is as accessible as possible to students with additional support needs.
We will be providing an educational learning space for schools that is adaptable. While we would provide activities for classes, schools and pupils can develop their own activities and content. We would provide support and technical advice to schools using the space.
The project will give all students an experience of online communication and gaming. This will allow teachers to engage pupils in discussion about safe and productive participation in these emerging social environments.

User experience
When users log in for the first time, they will be directed to a brief introduction area which will they move around to learn the basic skills to interact with the program. The introduction area will be laid out as a short tour, walking around a path being given new pieces of information about how to use the game, to support learning in a structured way. This will be a similar model to an introduction level in a computer game where a new skill is introduced, users are encouraged to try out this skill, and these skills will be developed in an incremental way.
Students will then be put into small groups and assigned a task or challenge. For the initial trial, this will be a virtual shop task. Users will then receive their instructions, information and building materials. Each group will be allocated a separate area of land to use, and a standard shop building. Working as part of a team, the students will be required to plan, design and sell objects to other users in the online environment. They can adapt existing objects and buildings by changing colours and textures and by resizing them. Once created, objects can be displayed in their shop. Some of the information, scripts and building materials will be spread across the group, requiring teamwork and collaboration from all users to achieve the task at the highest level. Users can move around the environment and share experiences by visiting other teams' building areas. They may need to negotiate with other teams to get additional resources.
A virtual meeting area will be used to outline the tasks and allocate groups in the game. Additional learning areas will be provided which will allow students to develop existing skills or gain new ones at appropriate times.

Subjects and Curriculum
We anticipate that teachers can use the project to address business and enterprise skills within personal and social education classes. Students will make use of and develop skills in planning and designing objects. These skills can then be used in art, design, computing, and technology classes. As the Second Life environment is very flexible, we hope to continue on after the trial to extend the use of the environment, by developing interactive resources for enhancing teaching other subject areas.
The business and enterprise approach to the project and to teaching and learning will be a valuable experience for pupils of all academic backgrounds. We feel that the project will also allow pupils to become successful and confident, and effective contributors to a team.

Target Audience
Our target audience will initially be school students aged 13-16 and teachers of this group.
The 13-16 age group is one that is becoming more challenging in schools. As teachers, we have looked for new ways to interest and excite this age group as they can get disaffected with school at this stage. We feel that the project may not be suitable for pupils older than 16, as the main focus at this age will be on certificated courses, and the project may not be as successful due to perceived pressures of time.
The skills required to use the software are too complex for children younger than 13. In addition, children younger than 13 are not allowed to use Second Life for legal reasons. Linden Labs, the company which supports the service is governed by American laws regarding the collection of personal details from young people, in particular the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.

Intellectual Property/copyright
At present a total of 17 universities and Higher Education institutions are using Second Life for teaching courses. There are many academic references on the use of virtual environments in education at all levels. However, according to Linden Labs there are no schools using or planning to use Second Life. In addition we would retain intellectual property on any activities, resources or objects that we develop within Second Life.
We are aware of companies developing educational resources using 3D technology, but as far as we are aware these are all focussed on a particular task and are not easy to customise at a school level without support from the software developers. The resources we would develop would be distinctive because they can be adapted easily. Teachers and students will also be able to adapt their own activities and resources, and share their creations with others.

What is new or innovative about our idea?
We will be providing schools with an exciting way of teaching enterprise education. Few ICT resources are available to teachers in this area.
Although there are universities using Second Life for educational purposes, we would be the first school project to use Teen Second Life. Using Second Life will allow us to provide a collaborative working environment for pupils and teachers that goes beyond websites or instant messaging. Unlike many 3D games or simulations that have been developed, using Second Life will provide a cheap 3D engine that we can then develop. It is a flexible and adaptable solution to educational games development.
It is an easy to use environment, as can be demonstrated by the number of Second Life users building and scripting their own objects. Not only can we later develop and add activities, but students and teachers can do the same. Once we train teachers in how to use the program, and support them while using it with classes, they can then start to develop their own activities. It is far more adaptable and flexible that a custom-made solution would be, and it supports our aims of collaboration and creativity.

What will users learn from this prototype?
The main purpose is for students to develop enterprise and social skills by working in an shared space to learn about a new environment and identify new opportunities. Students will gain skills in designing objects, marketing, advertising, and promotion. They will try to find a gap in the market, then acquire the skills to design and build the product. They may need to negotiate with other teams to get resources they require to produce the items.
We will introduce teachers to the Second Life environment through training sessions. This will include basic skills in using the program, such as walking, flying, communicating with others, and changing their avatar's appearance. They will then learn how to create and alter objects and apply scripts to them. This will enable the teachers to use the software confidently with classes, and will be an opportunity to try the activities and for us to identify new opportunities for using this environment in schools.
Teachers will use the activities to improve the young people's abilities in working in partnership and in teams, thinking creatively and independently, communicating in different ways and in different settings, taking initiative and leading, applying critical thinking in new contexts, and solving problems.

How will users learn from using this prototype rather than a more traditional method?
Second Life support impressive amounts of learner interactivity within a complex simulated environment. We are aiming to motivate learners through enjoyable and challenging tasks in a game-like 3D environment that they can collaborate in and contribute to. Students will be developing products to sell in a shop, and will compete against other teams to make the most profit. The teams will be given objects to help them in the task, but not all teams will be given the same objects, and may need to negotiate with other teams to get objects they need to complete the task.
This approach has several advantages over other methods of teaching enterprise skills: It allows all students to participate; It can be run in school to fit the existing timetable; It does not rely on businesses to dedicate time and resources; It doesn't require paperwork and risk assessment; and it is cheap to run as no materials are required to build and sell objects.
This project will use different strategies and techniques to enable deep learning. The project will be used to promote and support discussion, enable learner collaboration, enable students to select and generate their own learning resources, and support the process of reflection.

We anticipate needing help with refining and developing our ideas, planning the project, advice on how to involve councils and schools, and evaluating the end product. We also need assistance on developing the project so that it can be used in schools in the rest of the UK as well as in Scotland.

Costs involved
We need to rent server space within the Teen Second Life environment. This is an initial payment of $938 (approx £538) to purchase the 'sim', and a monthly cost of $147 (approx £85) to use the server. These prices include an educational discount.
We will need web hosting, plus audio and video streaming at £65 (approx $123) per year.

Technical requirements
We will be developing and scripting objects and an environment within a program called Second Life. Second Life uses LSL (Linden Scripting Language) which is based on the syntax of C++ and Java. We will also be using web development and graphics editing software.

We will use an application for PC, Mac and Linux called Second Life, plus a website with supporting material.