Poster sessions

Using virtual worlds for education
Post Reply
Graham Mills
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:26 pm
Has thanked: 594 times
Been thanked: 748 times

Poster sessions

Post by Graham Mills » Tue Feb 17, 2015 1:08 pm

I ran a couple of poster sessions today with 25 students in each 1-hour session. The students in each session were allocated to one of four groups and told to start at the group world where their poster was displayed though afterwards they could visit others. There was a very basic induction (how to move, fly, sit, touch) and that was about it. The group-joining OSSL script mentioned on the Kitely Scripts board worked well although students did have to be reminded to use it. The posters had adjacent seats that captured the avatar camera and focused it on the poster. The poster textures were uploaded and distributed by chatting the board id and texture key. The boards had listen routines that were started at sim restart and died a fixed time afterwards. Regions were identified by a letter of the alphabet and this, together with the board number, were prepended to the texture key and chatted by a master prim and received by the board scripts which then applied the appropriate texture. Region-specific signage was also applied by reference to the region name which meant that one region could be copied and the remainder would (largely) autoconfigure (this wasn't feasible for the group-joining script).

While the maximum avatar numbers on any region (probably 10-ish) were unlikely to cause undue stress, Kitely performed very well and the ability to clone regions meant that students rapidly became familiar with the layout and could focus on the task. A small number of students had login issues that were fixed by using the Go to|Settings option and updating the viewer password. For the curious, the build was based on the Essentials3 design by Keystone Bouchard.

Nothing very novel here but the region cloning was "interesting" in so far as I forgot that the camera capture seats would need to handle CHANGED_REGION_START as well. Also, a Python routine for extracting resized textures from PowerPoint files proved disappointing in that it used some nasty default font for everything so that had to be done manually. Still looking for an automation tool that could do the job easily.

For anyone wondering why virtual posters are a good idea, I would point out that printing normal posters is expensive and that their display occupies significant wall space which means that they can only be made available for a limited time -- in this virtual class they will be displayed for 9 weeks. Of course, it doesn't have to be one or the other -- we do both. We have two similar sessions planned for later in the module.
These users thanked the author Graham Mills for the post (total 6):
Ilan TochnerDot MatrixConstance PeregrineKeith SelmesSerene JewellSelby Evans
Graham Mills
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:26 pm
Has thanked: 594 times
Been thanked: 748 times

Re: Poster sessions

Post by Graham Mills » Tue May 12, 2015 11:50 am

The final poster session took place today and generally ran very well. The only significant innovation was the introduction of voting boxes alongside each poster so that students could show their support for a particular piece of work. In the time available I went for a very simple approach based on using inworld currency, i.e. KC, as votes. There was a scripted KC giver on each of the 8 worlds that gave a one-time 5KC to avatars that they could then "spend" as their vote in the scripted voting boxes. The voting boxes maxed out at 5 votes/KC and were configured to allow votes of 1-4KC. You could, however, vote more than once for a poster and even for your own. To counter this, voting was not anonymous with a list of voters being shown after each vote was cast (imperfect but adequate for my purposes). I haven't done any analysis but it seemed as though a lot of votes were being cast, i.e. that at least a proportion of the 60-ish students thought it a worthwhile activity. I should add that the KC/votes came back to my avatar via the voting boxes!

This time I also attempted to structure the activity by having a circus arrangement whereby students on one world sat by their posters so that they could answer questions by students visiting from another world. Everyone got to act as hosts and visitors. As students were encouraged to use IM, it is a little difficult to gauge activity although judged by the number of seated avatars they seemed happy to comply and there were occasionally obvious clusters of students around a particular seated avatar adjacent to their poster. I should add that the ten poster locations on each world were arranged in an identical order and that posters in the same position on each world were thematically related so students would have some knowledge and interest in discussing the content.

For unknown reasons one (heavily modded) avatar seemed to break physics and repeatedly fell through the pavement. That issue rectified itself eventually. A couple also had problems with region access despite being members of the appropriate group. One case resolved itself after a while; I'm not sure about the other as I ended up opening a couple of worlds to bypass the issue. In general, however, the worlds ran very smoothly and the students were able to focus on the posters without difficulty.
These users thanked the author Graham Mills for the post (total 4):
Constance PeregrineDot MatrixSerene JewellSelby Evans
User avatar
Serene Jewell
Posts: 336
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:12 am
Has thanked: 636 times
Been thanked: 397 times

Re: Poster sessions

Post by Serene Jewell » Tue May 12, 2015 3:22 pm

This sounds like a very interesting use of virtual worlds for education, Graham. What grade level were these students?

The idea of posters is interesting. It combines some they can relate to very well from the physical world, with the new virtual world environment. Great idea to give them KC to vote with. It provides a sense of agency as well as just being a practical way to allow voting.
These users thanked the author Serene Jewell for the post:
Selby Evans
Graham Mills
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:26 pm
Has thanked: 594 times
Been thanked: 748 times

Re: Poster sessions

Post by Graham Mills » Tue May 12, 2015 3:54 pm

They are second-year UK undergraduates. They do a fair number of conventional poster presentations in other modules. The use of KC, of course, only works if they don't buy their own ;)

Incidentally, I just came across this concept video from Microsoft which has a nice edu context at the outset but is quite thought-provoking for someone using virtual worlds (spoiler alert: there aren't any in the video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tFdreZB94

While I'm trading vids, how about some immersive learning spaces along the lines of The Void: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cML814JD09g

In the meantime I'll keep pushing prims :)
These users thanked the author Graham Mills for the post:
Selby Evans
Graham Mills
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:26 pm
Has thanked: 594 times
Been thanked: 748 times

Re: Poster sessions

Post by Graham Mills » Mon Mar 13, 2017 7:40 pm

Still running poster sessions but this year (in a different module) we swapped to Alchemy as viewer. First thoughts:
  • As I do my own updates on a shared network drive, it's important that the viewer runs without an install (as Alchemy does). It also helps in my particular context that Alchemy is relatively small -- maybe it's just my perception but CEF seems to have added significantly to install sizes? As it wasn't germane I deleted all the voice support, optional skins and non-EN language support and it still worked OK.
  • Having to add Kitely to the list of supported grids and enable grid selection is a recipe for 50% of students ending up in the Welcome Center. Not ideal but at least you know where they are.
  • Alchemy seemed to crash once per student session with the worldview sometimes "broken" on the next login. For some reason responding to the group join dialog seemed problematic for some students (did a double-click do it?) Waiting a couple of minutes before logging-in again seemed to fix the broken worldview without resorting to clearing cache. Thereafter the experience was mostly pretty solid.
  • The default Alchemy skin is a bit dark in places, i.e. you can't always readily spot text entry fields or whether an option in a dropdown is available or disabled. The SL v3 skin is an option and better in that regard.
  • Auto-play of shared media was (rightly) off by default although this is a bit of an annoyance.
  • Code indentation in the script editor seemed slightly borked and there was no OSSL code highlighting.
  • I wasn't aware that viewers had built-in particle editors these days (well, Alchemy does).
  • Alchemy chat bar commands have to be prefaced with a slash by default, i.e. /tp2cam
  • Alchemy doesn't use pie menus AFAIK. That's probably a good thing for students.


This may all seem rather negative but actually I liked it and would use it again.

More generally it would be nice for students to be able to select an avatar at registration. Also, the log-in screen, while clever, is over-busy in my opinion.
Post Reply