Shameless Plug? Sure, plus details

posted in: elearning | 1

When a new technology or platform comes along, we tend to think of “how can I use it for elearning”?

Second Life, although not new at five years since it started, is still new to the elearning community.  It still has that new sparkle to it and continues to improve with each viewer release.  The next viewer will have MONO and should result in a noticeably faster script running (up to 220 times faster).

While this has little to do directly with elearning in Second Life, it will increase performance and make for a better all around experience for residents.  That is all well and fine, but to return to the premise of this post – we tend to look at this as “how can I put my elearning into that?”

Whether “that” is Second Life or an iPhone, we typically focus on how to deliver our content via the new platform.  This is certainly appropriate and yields great results.  At DevLearn08, I look at how we can turn that around in regard to Second Life.

Rather than bring elearning into it, bring “it” to elearning.  Second Life has some obstacles, none are particularly bad, just obstacles (firewall issues, initial learning curve, limit to number of participants in one place).  It is a very rich tool intended to allow a high level of 3D creativity.   That is a huge plus for Second Life as all content is created by it’s users.  Keeping in mind that it is a shared 3D application helps to understand why it does have occasional issues.  To create a sharable 3D application is a mammoth task and quite well done by Linden Labs.

For me, bringing Second Life into elearning means using it as your own personal video studio.  The cost and logistics of incorporating real video in elearning is very high.  And if you ever need to update the video you have . . . that is nearly impossible (having the same actors, wardrobe, video and audio setup, is difficult).  However, creating a Second Life studio means having your own 3D created space with actors that don’t age, are always available (if you use alts and dedicated accounts), saved outfits in their inventories, total control over lighting, et cetera.

The addition of MONO means that subsequent filming will be even smoother and yield higher quality results.  The use of this video (machinima) is certainly heavy in it’s 3D “game” style but is an option that is inexpensive and fairly easy to do.  Once you have the techniques and settings established, it is easy to shoot video and easy to come back later to update that video.

Techniques and settings to consider will all be presented at DevLearn08 concurrent session 708 and the supporting material will be available for download.  These materials include “user guides”, checklists, tip & tricks, tools, video files, and Flash files.  Additionally, a sim (island) will be made available for participants of the conference to practice these techniques in a private area with low traffic.

Thanks and I hope to see you there for a very resource heavy presentation with step-by-step discussion of a real world case study.  You will definitely be able to come away with “lessons learned” and be able to put this into practice for your elearning.

Second Life Video (Machinima) Tool Links

posted in: elearning | 1

This is just a start to what will be an exhaustive list of tools used for doing machinima in Second Life for use in your elearning material.

I found this information through hours of searching and hope to save you some time.  The links are to products I use in my work now and each product will also be covered in my session at Devlearn08 on using Second Life as an inexpensive video source.

Note:  This is a work in progress and User Guides will be created specific to lessons learned in the use of these tools for use in elearning.

Fraps – this is a video capture tool that is often used to record World of Warcraft and other online games.  It maintains a very high frame rate (over 30 typically on my machine). Cost: $37 USD

Sizer – this freeware utility is incredibly important for creating as crisp a video as possible.  It is also a huge time saver after it’s initial, and easy, set up.  Maintaining crisp video is a simple matter of filming the video to the exact size you will be using in your eLearning material, thus avoiding any anti-aliasing.

WavePad – the free version is much easier to use than it initially looks.

FilmingPath – this is an “in world” camera that allows for very smooth camera pans and dolly shots.

QuickTime Pro – If you want to make video podcasts, this is a vital tool for converting your AVI files to the iPod format and it is only $29 USD.

CamStudio – the free screencasting software from which Camtasia was built.

eLearning Guild Annual Gathering 2009

posted in: elearning | 0

The call for proposals has come out for the 2009 Annual Gathering and I would love to hear ideas that you may have regarding Second Life.  My passion is in creating spaces that are conducive to eLearning and creativity. 

I have also created team building exercises using obstacle type courses (think Ropes courses) and presentation areas.

If you have topics that would be of interest to the community, drop me a line.  Thanks

Amphitheatre for the eLearning Guild

posted in: elearning | 4

When asked about possibly providing a Second Life location for a Question and Answer session for the Guild Summer Seminar Series, I gladly offered my building skills and the use of iliveisl land.

And off I went in my beaver avatar (it’s a French Canadian thing). The build took about 4 hours using megaprims. Megaprims allow for the creation of shapes that would be very difficult to achieve with normal prims. A few Photoshop textures later and voila, a 40 seat amphitheatre and room for 6 panelists and a moderator.

Even details like water and a coffee maker are provided (a 1905 Victoria Arduino Caffe Espresso maker no less).

While this is a temporary build, look for it in November for the DevLearn08 conference.

A full sim will be provided for conference attendees exclusive use during, and after, the conference.

Consider attending my session if you are interested in seeing how easy, and affordable it is to add Second Life video (machinima) to your eLearning.

elgStage_020

Originally uploaded by iliveiSL

eLearning Guild DevLearn08 Presentation

posted in: elearning | 0

eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference

The DevLearn08 concurrent session descriptions are up and live and it is very exciting to be a part of this.

An exciting aspect is that we (the iliveisl estate team) will have a dedicated sim online for session participants to explore building and machinima techniques.  It will be a big sandbox with at least a 4 hour build time (meaning that objects will be autoreturned every 4 hours to keep from lagging the sim).

To obtain sim access and build permissions, just let me know your avatar name and you will be invited to a Second Life group (name yet to be determined).  Feel free to post your aSecond Life vatar name here, or drop a notecard to Subquark Hax (my IMs get capped so a notecard insures that I get it).

After a few minor edits, the session 708 verbage will look like this:

Add Second Life to your Training without Having Users Log into Second Life

Leverage Second Life (SL) as a Web 2.0 eLearning tool.  Learners do not need to access Second Life to benefit.  In this session you will learn how to record and edit metaverse video, add audio, and incorporate it into Flash to create immersive learning simulations.

In this session, you will learn:
– creating a video script based on an existing course,
– video capture tools and optimal settings for their use, both inworld and outside of Second Life,
– creating “sets” in Second Life for your filming,
– creating outfits for your inworld cast,
– overriding Second Life environmental settings for lighting,
– avatar specific settings for optimal filming,
– video directing and editing “best practices”,
– audio tools and “best practices”, and
– importing video into Flash to create questions, scenarios, and overview videos.

Video walkthroughs of all aspects will be presented and made available for download, as well as supporting materials, to enable you to create your own Flash interactions.  A private in-world “sandbox” will allow you to practice these skills for 45 days after the conference.

Audience:
Intermediate Designers and Developers with intermediate-level Flash and Second Life skills.

eLearning Guild Speaker

The first fully online & inworld certificate

posted in: elearning | 3

A great press release discussing Texas State Technical College’s certificate in digital media.  Amazing that it is the first but hats off to them for doing this. 

The use of a virtual world, like Second Life, is incredibly appropriate for this educational track.  It will be interesting to follow it’s implementation and hopefully find their island.  The press release does include a video and snapshot giving a glimpse of their efforts.

Creating a mostly inworld educational offering such as this must have been incredible.  It’s one thing to offer a few classes on inworld activities, but quite another to teach a programme that encompasses all digital media.

TSTC First to Offer Accredited College Certificate and Degree Programs in Virtual World

TSTC Virtual Site

Two years to build an island?

posted in: elearning | 1

Here is a typical article on the launch of a new island for an academic institution.  Nothing out of the ordinary (over 400 higher education institutions are currently in Second Life), however I was taken aback when the article mentioned it was 2 years in the making.

I expect that includes the entire project from proposal to island completion.  In that regard, it is not suprising.  The bureaucracy and possible “push back” can be quite an obstacle in both academia and corporate settings. 

A two year lag becomes more and more of an issue when Web 2.0 apps are coming on fast and furious.

They have a great collaborative plan outlined to include other community colleges on their island.  I can’t wait to see what they have created, I am certain it is very well done from both an educational and Second Life perspective.

Springfield Technical Community College to unveil virtual island in Second Life online world at Texas conference

Want to learn Linden Scripting Language?

posted in: elearning | 0

If you are like me, perhaps new programming languages may seem intimidating. Linden Scripting Language (LSL) is a great language and can really add a lot to your inworld endeavors.

Often it is the simple things that add value for your users. Perhaps just giving out a notecard, displaying some hover text, opening a URL, or other scripts that you have seen inworld. I just learned a piece of code that allows an object to open your map and offer to teleport you anywhere in the grid. It’s a nice alternative to a landmark giver and saves the user a click. But I digress . . . (those code snippets will be made available in an LSL library I am developing for eLearning Guild DevLearn 2008 conference attendees).

Torley Linden posted a new tutorial on a fantastic tool to help get your feet wet with LSL. The tool was created by Ann Enigma and is available (with wonderful documentation) at 3greeneggs. Torley’s video tutorial is available on the Second Life Blog here.

eLearning does not have to be hi-tech

posted in: elearning | 0

It is far too easy, for me, to grab Flash and start creating interactions and what not. It’s not that Flash is easy, but there is a comfort in using the tools you are most familiar with.

Often we do not take the time to stop and grab paper and pencil and sketch out our entire flow. We (the eLearning community in general) do use storyboards for our lessons, but it stops there often. We do not work out the minutia on paper. That is natural and often seen as a time saver.

But sometimes, making it work on paper first saves a lot of time. And sometimes, maybe the paper version can be the final eLearning. To explore that concept, I set out to create a detailed flow of how to buy land in Second Life.

The storyboard for a simple task, buying land, turned out to be a series of drawings on paper. It easily could have been created in Flash using a combination of snapshots and machinima (sl video). To do that would involve setting up land, creating a set, wardrobe for the avatars, video editing, importing into Flash, et cetera.

It seemed like such overkill for a quick 2 minute tutorial. So I pulled out the camera, kept it low tech and campy and the result works well. Hardly a new concept.

In fact it is somewhat like a flip book. The closest eLearning example I know to something vaguely similar would be the masterful work of Common Craft.

However, I used no video (keeping it simple for very fast production), no pre-made props, had no hand appearances, used colour, and only used drawing (no scissors kept it safer too!). I drew out the main points on individual sheets and made notes on each (they are visible in the video) as to what needed to be added.

The biggest time factor was in scripting the voice over. This was done first and based on iliveisl’s Flickr tutorial on Buying Land. The total production time was about 4 hours. It is an experiment and if it were to be redone, a little polishing would be done, like tighter shots, no desk in the background, perhaps the use of a ruler for some drawings.

Enough pontification, the final version is here.

Yet another blog is born . . .

posted in: elearning | 0

Blogging is not new to me, but I have yet to blog as en eLearning practitioner. My blogging efforts have been geared to promoting my “freelance” work in Second Life®. These efforts, and the lessons learned, have afforded me a certain expertise in Second Life.

Thus this first post shall paint a picture of some of that experience to frame my perspective on Second Life and it’s possible uses within eLearning content.

I was introduced to Second Life during the height of it’s coverage by the news media and further drawn to explore it because a few of our client’s were using this bizarre metaverse where you can buy virtual land. By day I am a multimedia developer, along with 10 other eLearning specialist, for Newmarket International. Newmarket creates sales and catering software for hotels. In fact, the hotel for the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn 2008 Conference uses Delphi to book and manage functions, such as the conference itself.

Our eLearning is used by over 100,000 users in 110 countries. As with any training, we strive to create engaging eLearning and look to the eLearning Guild to help guide our exploration of the latest “best practices”.

And that is where the meshing of eLearning and Second Life occured for me. We had been striving for incorporating video into our training but were faced with the reality of actual budgets!

With the discovery of machinima, or inworld video, it seemed to perhaps offer an alternative to the challenges of real video. After all, avatars don’t age, it’s easy to create a cast of characters, outfits and sets. As a “proof of concept”, I took it upon myself to learn how to do machinima.

I was suprised at the lack of information on how to effectively “shoot” video within Second Life. Many late nights were spent both on the web and inworld discovering what tools were used to obtain the results I had seen in machinima posted on various forums and on the Second Life site.

Those links will follow in later posts, as well, as advice on what I found to work well.

Coincidentally, just weeks prior to this time I had built a prototype of a “best practices” teaching facility for a possible eLearning Guild presence in Second life (isl). I had been teaching inworld classes on building techniques and THiNC book creation and “tested” the prototype with two classes.

Funny how some things just intersect in life. Well these events led to the start of a virtual real estate business and, many sims later, I truly grasp why someone (or some company, institution, or university) would own virtual land.

So that is a little glimpse as to where my background lies . . .

Links:

Second Life

Proof of Concept Video

eLearning Guild prototype

THiNC book

Newmarket International eLearning

eLearning Guild Speaker
eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference

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