From July 2009 to July 2010, I was the graduate research assistant & program coordinator for the Virtual Learning Community Initiative (VLCI). The VLCI, funded through the University of Texas System Transforming Undergraduate Education Initiative, extended the 16 University of Texas campuses into the virtual world of Second Life.
Each UT campus received three virtual islands to explore the use of Second Life in undergraduate student learning, research, collaboration, and operations. The two distinct but interrelated tracks of this project were to: (1) initiate a UT System-wide virtual collaborative learning community of students, faculty, researchers and administrators, and (2) transform the learning experiences and opportunities for the individual undergraduate student at the course level.
The success of the project was measured on the following objectives:
- All campuses have virtual islands.
- Representatives from all campuses have participated in Summer 09 briefing, in Training of the Estate Managers (TOEMs), Training of Trainers (TOTs) and In-Service Training (ISTs).
- All campuses with undergraduate studies report offering at least one undergraduate course that incorporates virtual learning activities directly tied to learning objectives for that course and applies recommendations for successful learning in virtual worlds.
- All non-undergraduate campuses and medical and health science institutes report the creation of at least one “virtual research site” and an invitation policy for engaging undergraduates to participate.
- All campuses report collaboration activity with another campus.
- Cost savings of instruction with enhanced virtual extensions or improvements in the quality of instruction for participating undergraduates have been estimated.
- Increased access to courses, office hours, or discussion sections based either on number of participating students or on transition of existing face-to-face activities into virtual activities.
- IRB approval successfully completed by some participating faculty, educational and research units, and some inter-campus research collaborations.
- All monitoring, evaluation, assessment and reporting procedures for the project are in place and operational.
- An undergraduate conference has been held (or has been fully scheduled).
- Initial planning has been completed for a transition from these grant-supported activities to campus-supported maintenance and expansion activities.
The VLCI initiative resulted in numerous campus accomplishments including:
- creation of virtual poster sessions
- cost savings from virtual meetings
- collaborative building projects & sharing of resources
- a virtual Undergraduate Conference with attendance of 100 students & educators from 30 different schools & four countries
- development of a virtual art gallery
- classes being held virtually despite Hurricane Alex
Specific duties as program coordinator included administering, coordinating and marketing activities involved in assigned programs or projects; developing and implementing standards for attainment of program goals and objectives; maintaining frequent interaction with University departments, special groups and external agencies in administering the program; recommending new policies and procedures for improvement of program activities; coordinating staff training and development; conducting marketing assessment for assigned area; overseeing financial management of all program activities.
I continue to work with the VLCI as volunteer group coordinator while we strengthen the collaborative nature needed to ensure the sustainability of campus efforts with Second Life. Documentation of my virtual world experiences is available here. If you are interested in working with me virtually, please send me an email!