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MUVE 5. Ideas for a successful practice in virtual worlds

As part of the MUVE's course, we had to do a brief research regarding active and other learning approaches in Virtual Worlds. I chose Symposia as my subject and one of the suggestion was to interview one "practitioner", someone with experience in the subject looking for valuable insights. I guess I was lucky to find one not only with the knowledge but also with the enthusiasm and willingness to share.

I interviewed prof. Virginia (Vee) Kuhn organizer of Computer & Writing 2009: ubiquous and sustainable computing I've posed her 4 questions. In my opinion, she gives valuable insight and ideas about virtual Symposia. The interview went as follows:

1. What were the main difficulties you had with the organization of the event?

I think one of the main challenges lies in timing a synchronous event that takes place in geographically distant places--the change in time presents a challenge for scheduling both the event itself as well as the individual presenters.

2. What were you expecting out of it?

Well, first of all, I was hoping to be able to push the envelope a bit in terms of how academics participate in conferences. I have always been averse to the sort of stand and deliver mode of conference presentations. I have recently published a 'multimedia 'anthology' that speaks to this issue--most of us would not conduct their classes with this type of format, yet we still tend to do it in conferences.

But the other expectation or goal was to bring together colleagues from disparate locales without them having to expend the time and resources necessary to travel. In this way, I was quite pleased, particularly, as I said in the interview to which you referred, for that population who most lack the means to travel: graduate students.

3. How did you cope with the skills necessary for the participants to go around in SL?

Yes, there is a learning curve with working in virtual worlds, isn't there? We tried to offer help for people new to SL; at the IML we employ student workers in our labs and they were available during the week before the event. The tutorials at the New Media Consortium's site are quite valuable in this regard, so attendees who have not spent any time in world used both of these resources. As for the presenters, we conducted mandatory rehearsals in order to settle issues of voice chat, for instance, since not many of them/us had used it. This was time consuming (for similar issues of time zone differences) but the rehearsals unearthed problems that we could settle beforehand. Most of these issues had to do with requiring the use of headsets rather than using the open speaker functions of one's laptop. As you likely know, when several people are using voicechat, anyone with open speakers causes feedback that is untenable for conversation. But some things are only solved through practice and I feel as though I became a far better moderator when I facilitated the closing session on 3/1 (the opening session had been on 2/18). For the experience I gained, I am grateful.

4. Are you satisfied with the results?, if not what would you improve?

As I said, I am grateful for having had the experience. Now I can begin to refine and enhance the work I might conduct in SL in future. I would like to be able to include an object that mirrors the conent of my presentation, for instance, which I had hoped to do so for this event but I lacked the time to have it built (I was managing other logitics.) I would like to do more that uses the affordances of the virtual world in ways one cannot in the real world.

End of the interview.

I would also suggest to hear another (voice) interview of professor Kuhn in HERE.

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