Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dealing with Skeptics on Campus

Location: SLER weekly Roundtable

Poor AJ Brooks! Our intrepid moderator had a raucous crowd on hand for the discussion of "Non-VW issues" last night. These should have included staff management, budgeting, project-planning, and so forth.

The moon was not full, but it might as well have been. AJ had a chatty and chaotic group of around 40 of us, and we resolutely stayed off-topic until near the end. Some excellent discussion did emerge (I'm combing through our transcript now). A major bone of contention (a fine metaphor, that) was how to convince campus skeptics about SL's value. These ideas emerged from the swamp of discourse:
  • Objections to SL are not limited to "SL means sex." See an old post here for more on that! Faculty may see it as merely a "game," as too complex to invest their time, as only for distance education
  • My Scottish bud Kali, who works heavily with Blackboard, noted that the popular course-management system went through the same process of gaining credibility. Other participants noted how the Web itself, even e-mail, had a bumpy start with faculty and admins
  • The "SL is dying" meme hurts adoption. I suggested that the skeptics look at Tateru Nino's figures at Massively, where she runs regular updates about usage of SL. I also pointed folks to this site by Virtual World Watch. Kali recommends a study (PDF format) done in the UK about investing in virtual worlds for higher ed
  • The urge to evangelize when we enjoy a technology hurts. As Kimbeau Surveryor put it, "I learned that VW evangelism is worse than being a door-to-door Christian." Instead, several participants wanted to have case studies in hand to show how SL has helped with learning outcomes. I think I'd point skeptics to the project that Profesora Farigoule's students completed, combining architecture and social change or other work that could not be done as cheaply (or at all) on the other side of the screen. By the way, I'd show colleagues the work on the flat Web first, before taking them in-world, even "over my shoulder." That way, they see the potential in a format they respect, and not in something game-like.
Comment of the week goes to CathyWyo1 Haystack:
those who have the most success with using sl are enthusiastic with their students and encourage fun at the same time as learning.

Update for July 17: The entire transcript can be found here.

Thanks to everyone who participated.


DomiMatrix Marketing Whip said...

Rather than evangelize, entice colleagues by using snob factor, as in "I can't come to your (boring) real life meeting because I am participating in a 3-D virtual conference with colleagues all over the globe right now."

Iggy O said...

I'd kill an army for your name :)

Mimi Muircastle said...

Loved your great review of the SL Educ. Roundtable yesterday! It was my first meeting and I enjoyed the energy and productive exchange of ideas - even tho I definitely had to do a little speed reading to keep up with the comments and felt some relief when it was over, whew!!!

And, now that I have found your blog, I will read it frequently if not faithfully!