Immersive Learning Research Network Conference 2019

The fifth annual Immersive Learning Research Network conference was held this month in London, England. This conference brings together an international group of developers, educators, and research professionals from a range of  disciplines who collaborate to develop the scientific, technical, and applied potential of immersive learning. In particular, conference participants share their research in an ongoing effort to continually examine the elements that create effective immersive learning experiences. 

I had heard about the conference from one of the organizers, Jonathan Richter, who had presented a keynote at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference in April. I had presented at that in-world conference. Jon had let me know that there was still room for poster presentations at iLRN19, so I had the honor to represent San Jose State University at an international community event.

Bethany at iLRN 2019

My poster synthesized research on the affordances of virtual worlds, and my experiences as both participant and in-world builder for the last year and a half. All of the conference events were great, but I was particularly inspired by Jim Purbrick’s presentation Lessons Learned in Virtual Worlds. As a former developer for Second Life, (and current engineering manager of Oculus VR in the UK), Jim articulated the increasing importance of understanding the social aspect of collaborating in open virtual worlds. Of course, I think the best way to do that is join the educators and librarians who have been holding events and conferences in virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim for the last 10 years. So if you have any such interest, do let me know!

If you’re interested in the research, the conference proceedings (linked here) contain 18 final papers selected from 60 submissions. These papers fall into seven different categories; STEM, disciplinary applications, special education, history, pedagogical strategies, immersion and presence. I’ve also linked here to a PDF version of my poster. (From the QR code on my poster you can access additional information and videos about virtual worlds I have posted on Canvas.)

I hope San Jose State will have an even bigger presence at the conference next year, when it will be held in June at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo! 

OpenSim Community Conference 2018

Bethany at OSCC 2018

This is a good follow up to Yingjie’s previous post about the upcoming Immersive Learning Institute for 2019. As I wrap up my thoughts on my conference experiences for this year, I’m most delighted that I was able to attend the sixth annual OpenSimulator Community Conference 2018 on December 8th and 9th. This was my second year attending this virtual world conference, and it allowed me to network with educators, artists, and others from around the world, all of whom are passionate about this open source alternative to a virtual worlds platform such as Second Life.

Presenting in a Virtual World

This was also my first time presenting in a virtual world! Originally I was to co-present with a colleague, Dr. Valerie Hill, the director of the Community Virtual Library (CVL). Valerie wasn’t able to attend, however, so it gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to this community, and tell them about CVL’s plans for a hypergrid resource library on two different virtual worlds that are using the OpenSimulator platform. As the project lead, my presentation included screenshots of the two buildings I’ve put in place where all our content and resources will be housed, along with the portals that allow for visitors to jump easily from one virtual world grid to another.

Bethany presenting at OSCC 2018

Hypergrid?! Hypergridding?!

Since the concept of hypergridding is likely to not be familiar to you, here’s a simple explanation. There are many virtual worlds built on OpenSimulator, and those worlds can be on anybody’s computer or server anywhere in the world. So if virtual worlds are like 3 dimensional websites, hypergridding is the protocol that allows a user to jump from “website” to “website”. Instead of just navigating the different pages of one virtual world, a visitor is empowered to travel from different computers or servers to another.

While there is a bit of a learning curve, and the technology is still kind of wonky, I think of open source virtual worlds and hypergridding as kind of a 2.0 mashup of the internet and social media. It’s every sci-fi geek’s dream –  the emerging metaverse!

Conference Discovery Session: Integrating 360 Content With Instruction

Bethany presenting at table

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, winter is generally a good time for eCampus staff to focus on their own professional development.  I was delighted to be able to attend the Online Learning Consortium’s Accelerate 2018 Conference in Orlando, Florida. This was my first time at this enormous national convention and it was a whirlwind of learning and networking! There were over 500 presenters, and I was fortunate to be among those chosen to do a table-top interactive presentation. My topic was on Integrating 360 Content with Instruction, and for 45 minutes I went through some of the basic concepts, terminology, possibilities and pitfalls of using Canvas to share 360 content.

I had several mobile devices, two tablets, a couple Samsung phones, a Samsung 360 gear camera, and two Samsung Gear360 headsets along with a Google Cardboard, so that participants could view 360 content in multiple ways.  I also created a public Canvas course, Integrating 360 with Instruction!, participants could access via a QR code or bit.ly link so that participants could see how the content could be presented in Canvas. In particular, I strongly encouraged them to visit the course on multiple devices, just like their students would, to really get a feel for the challenges and opportunities this kind of technology presents.

I also attended many excellent lectures and discussions with my peers from all over the country. I took a lot of notes that I shared with my eCampus team, and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with faculty!

The Future Present: Rockcliffe University Consortium Conference November 2018

Winter for eCampus staff is a great time to catch up on our own professional development, and earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend this conference in San Francisco with a variety of participants who are involved using virtual worlds in education. One the best things about this conference was the smaller size compared to other ones I’ve attended. It was interactive too, we use a conference app to communicate and a communal Padlet for reflection on the sessions. Basically, it was like a two day breakout session with passionate and creative educational professionals, and I got to meet and network with old friends and new!

I was delighted to be able to finally meet (in-person) my mentor and the Director of the Community Virtual Library, Dr. Valerie Hill. I also got to meet the CVL’s Co-Director, Alyce Dunavant-Jones who just graduated from SJSU’s MLIS program that is also connected with CVL. (In fact, Alyce also posted about the event at the SJSU School of Information blog.)  I met Val and Alyce last year at the OpenSim Community Conference and I’m delighted to be co-presenting with Val for the same conference next week!

In addition to learning from a variety of different sessions, I loved getting to know some of the amazing instructional design team from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. I also got the chance to  meet and extensively mingle with the leadership of Rockcliffe University Consortium who sponsor many of the conferences related to virtual worlds and education. As with Valerie and Alyce, some of these people I’ve met in-world at one event or another, and meeting in-person was just like meeting an old friend!

I also met Renne Emiko Brock who teaches multimedia studies at Peninsula College in Washington and we immediately “clicked”. She has worked with Valerie before, and I’ve seen her present in-world on several occasions. I immediately recognized her because she looks the same as her avatar! Before the group dinner together on the second night, Renne, Val, and I began talking about me making a visit to Washington this summer to visit both of them, and for the three of us to co-present on our overlapping projects at one or more conferences in 2019. So here’s to the authenticity of in-world relationships, and some exciting times ahead in virtual worlds and education!

NEW! Excelsior OWL: Online Lab for Developing Reading & Writing Skills

The Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) makes it’s debut at San Jose State University fall 2018 semester.  The Excelsior OWL is a replacement for Writer’s Help, it’s a free, open educational resource that is easy to use and mobile friendly! This powerful online tool is an excellent resource that instructors can freely share with their students so that they can get the help they need to improve their reading and writing skills. Students can also go directly to Excelsior OWL on their own, no account is necessary. 

Reading & Writing Support

The Excelsior OWL if chock full of engaging college level interactive content on a variety of topics.There are actual two distinct areas of Excelsior OWL, the Online Reading Lab and the Online Writing Lab. Both are easy to navigate, and the search feature returns targeted and more relevant  results than searching in Google.

Customization Options

Instructors might be interested in several other exciting options that let them integrate Excelsior OWL content with their own curriculum. The link below takes you to a page that shows you how to get the HTML embed code of over one hundred writing activities and almost two hundred interactive reading activities. Once you have the embed code, you easily add it to your own page in Canvas. Your students will be able to see and interact with that content without ever leaving your Canvas course.

Instructors who want to create free accounts are able to gather whatever instructional content they like from Excelsior OWL and organize it into a larger customized lesson called an “Owlet”.

Check out the video below and explore the Excelsior OWL today!

Excelsior OWL from eCampus on Vimeo.