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Sharon Collingwood: Using presence in virtual worlds a springboard for learning

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Sharon Collingwood
13 January 2013

Sharon Collingwood: Using presence in virtual worlds a springboard for learning  

Tags: Ellie Brewster, virtual worlds, presence, immersive learning, OERs

I have been teaching women’s and gender studies in the virtual world Second Life for the past five years.  I have found that the most successful lessons involve an interrogation of the nature of virtual worlds, rather than just using the 3D program as a platform for learning.  

The creation of learning materials is reasonably easy in Second Life and Open Sim, so I am expecting that most people interested in this kind of a project would want to work there.  However, I’m also interested in looking at other platforms (Cloud Party, Twinity).

I have a small classroom in an educator’s community in Second Life that can be used as a meeting point.  I’d be happy to do some tutorials for those who are new to the tools.

An example of combining learning of course content with an exploration of the 3D environment  is my orientation exercise, seen at 1:10 on this short class video:

Another example

The change you would like to see (challenge)

The biggest challenge to virtual worlds teaching is the high learning curve for students.  Teaching them to navigate the interface takes time away from teaching course content.    Example

An illustration of the number of things students must learn in order to be effective in a virtual worlds classroom can be found in this video:

These are just the things I consider to be the minimum students will need.

How you might go about bringing that change

Ideally, I would like to develop a series of open educational resources that relate to the topic I am most interested in, environmental feminism.  I know this is a topic that won’t interest everyone, so I’d settle for working with a group who are interested in integrating the learning of course content and the development of virtual worlds skills.


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Peter Miller
5:44pm 13 January 2013

Great videos, Ellie. Happy to interact and collaborate during the course of the MOOC albeit that your preferred topic is outwith my comfort zone and I have a pretty full agenda of my own to pursue. Let's see how it goes :)

Peter Miller
9:21pm 13 January 2013 (Edited 6:27am 15 January 2013)

I added you as an admin for my project. Update: I deleted my project but left the entry in the Dreambazaar for records purposes.

Bronwyn Hegarty
12:06am 14 January 2013

Hi Ellie your orientation video and the introduction to virtual worlds were really good. I seemed to get echo with the first one but I guess that was deliberate. I also found this one and really liked some of the activities you described. Teaching in Virtual Worlds: overview:

I can see why "an interrogation of the nature of virtual worlds" would be interesting for students. I would be keen to explore activities which facilitate this approach, as I could integrate this in the courses I facilitate in two teaching qualifications - Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma - tertiary teaching and learning. For example students have to explore the concept of flexible/blended learning and design strategies for their classrooms. To do this they have to think about the learning needs of their students, and come up with creative ways of engaging them in experiential learning activities. One aspect of this would be to explore the pros and cons of virtual worlds for learning.

I have an avatar already in SL and would be happy to meet in your educational space to begin our collaboration. I am a bit rusty so may need some guidance. I have not created anything in SL as yet, and would be very interested to try doing this.

I could help with developing open content as I have a lot of experience in doing this already. Have yo used wikieducator or wikbooks? Two of my courses can be found at:


Bronwyn aka Branwen Trevallion

12:28am 14 January 2013

HI ..I would like to contribute or participate in this project.  Are you in Second Life?  


Thanks! Cathy Anderson 

Peter Miller
12:05pm 14 January 2013 (Edited 12:06pm 14 January 2013)

Hi Cathy -- I can't speak for Sharon but I'm guessing she'd be delighted. She's based in SL , I'm mostly OpenSim -- separate project.

Paul Rudman
4:31pm 14 January 2013


We have just completed a 3-year project in Second Life to trial genetics teaching in virtual worlds. "Presence" is an interesting concept (along with "immersion"); I would like to contribute to this project from our research perspective.

Paul Rudman (SL: PD Alchemi)


Peter Miller
4:52pm 14 January 2013

Hi Paul -- I'm certainly keen to learn more about what you've been doing and where you might be headed.

Paul Rudman
5:11pm 14 January 2013

Thanks Peter.

Just a note on training. We dealt with the issue by creating our own training area in SL. We got it to where we could send students in and be confident they would have learned the necessary basics within 30 minutes.



Sharon Collingwood
7:58pm 14 January 2013

I can't find a way to respond individually here, and I don't want to clog your mailboxes.

@Everyone: We're supposed to set up a dreamscape (this space) as well as a group working area (a cloudscape).  I have set up the cloudscape here:

As far as getting started on work, we don't have a lot of time, so I have thrown some ideas into a Google doc.  I'll set it up so that everyone can add, delete, change, etc.

@ Cathy.  Hi! I think we have met in SL? I am Ellie Brewster and I teach women's & gender studies at Ohio State.

@Peter - Thanks!

@ Bronwyn - I like your blog, and will connect it with mine.  Want to go deeper into your links, but I'm in the first week of classes, definitely will do it later.

@Paul - This is wonderful to have so many like thinking people.  Especially about orientation. So far I find that the best orientation exercise is the one I'm going to build next time.  Always next time.

Linda Shelton
9:57am 16 January 2013

Just to say that I will be checking out this project from time to time.

Anyone know abouyt Exit Reality in San Francisco? They bought Twinity a while ago so somehow the base moved from Berlin.

Exit Reality seem to do a lot of other learning schemes so I would like to know where 3D fits in.

Oli Haslam
10:32pm 16 January 2013

Hi all

Just wondering where you all were with setting up a study circle? I think the idea is that 2-3 'project teams' get together to form a 'study circle'.

I've started a project team to set up a 'Collaborative Gamified Simulation Environment' (details here and thought that your project and ours are somewhat related. A simulated environment, game-type environment, collaborative etc. 

Any thoughts?




Brian Robertson
7:22am 18 January 2013

Hi Folks

Not sure exactly what I can contribute to this but I'm very keen to learn about using virtual worlds in learning.

Any comments welcome


Will Pollard
10:39am 23 January 2013

I am going to concentrate on video

but I'm also interested in virtual worlds. SL can display video and also video capture is interesting. 

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