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Learning Management Systems and Second Life???

July 16, 2007

The Boston Second Life Meetup group was asked to host an event this week that put together BlackBoard developers and Linden Lab developers in a social setting. This event was sponsored by Semper International. Along with the BB and LL developers could be found educators from schools such as Princeton, UMass, Duke and an assortment of Second Life business people and enthusiasts. The event was held near where the BlackBoard Developers Conference was being held.

The interesting parts of the dialog were around the how, why and should Second Life and an LMS (Learning Management System) like BlackBoard be combined into a blended system. What Second Life lacks is an easy way to track and contain data in an easily accessible way. Along side the inefficiencies of 3D for reading text begs for a more robust data tracking application. As Jeremy Kemp discusses in his piece “Putting a Second Life “metaverse” skin on Learning Management Systems, “MUVE’s including SL are very poor document repositories. The note cards used used with SL are simple text documents which can support only very limited formatting.” A must needed tool for searching these documents and categorizing them would greatly enhance the process.

It was also interesting to hear some of the complaints aired by BlackBoard users about the lack of reporting capabilities. That while a great product BlackBoard had a lot of limitations. My discussion with one of the BB dev’s was cut short by hosting duties, but I am very interested in talking with him more.

One interesting benefit of a combined SL/LMS is on practical testing. If you are teaching specific skills such as Architecture and wanted to test the proficiency of a person it makes sense that using SL as the test and having a LMS connected to it that tracks things like time per action, keyboard shortcuts used and other specific abilities would be of great value to an educator in understanding their students understand of certain tools and programs. This is just one example of the benefits of this type of integration.

The interface could be an interesting project as well. Would it be as simple as a SL client wrapped in the LMS skin, with interactive tabs along the outer edges for navigation. Or a full 3D immersed solution where you interact with objects “in world” that lead one to the desired functionality. My guess is that the former is a better path.

This dialog has some interesting potential and I would love to see it continued and flushed out. The energy at this event was positive and there seemed to be good dialog happening between LL and BB developers. The others at the event should take with them a sense of commitment to let let it be know they are interested in this discussion moving forward and will push for it.

Brian Regan
Semper International

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