Measuring the Impact of the Oil Rig SL-tivity for Occupational Psychology MSc Students

Following Simon’s recent blog  about the oil rig task that is currently being produced for the Occupational Psychology team, I have been thinking about how we will measure the potential benefits for the students, and how we might expect this SL-tivity to impact the learning experiences of the students on our MSc courses.

Because of the specific nature of the oil rig task, not all students on the course will be required to use Second Life to complete the unit assignment for this module, which means that it will be possible to conduct a between-subjects comparison: How does the learning experience of students using Second Life differ to the learning experiences of those who are not using Second Life?

One way of exploring this will be through interviewing the students, asking them to evaluate their experiences. A more indirect measure might involve looking at students’ performance against particular learning outcomes (for example, perhaps looking at whether Second Life usage is related to better marks in this unit assignment).

While I was thinking about this, I came across an interesting case study  from the Loyalist College in Canada. The task has been created for Customs and Immigrations students who are training to become guards on the US-Canadian border. Because of changes to security regulations after September 11, students were no longer able to train with actual border guards. Therefore, a virtual border crossing simulation was created in Second Life.

Since the simulation was created, students’ scores on critical skills tests were reported to have increased from 56% success in 2007 to 95% by the end of 2008. In addition to this, increased numbers of students and faculty staff were reported to have explored Second Life for “mixed purposes” since the simulation was implemented.

Ken Hudson, Managing Director of the Virtual World Design Centre at the Loyalist College, described the impact of this SL intervention as “amazing and unprecedented.” In the report written about this intervention, the following quote from Ken Hodges was included:

“No single technological addition has ever impacted grades at the college in such a positive way. The affordable tools of Second Life allowed us to explore potential applications for education. Loyalist College believes strongly that were it not for Second Life, we would not be involved in virtual worlds whatsoever. The learning in these spaces is amazing, and when we are working with 30% increases in success, there is nothing more memorable than that.”

Although the task involved and the context of this case study is very different to our ‘oil rig’ task within Occupational Psychology, the basic underlying principles behind what we are trying to achieve are clearly comparable. I hope that, in time, once we have the SL-tivity up and running, we will also begin to see similar benefits for our students. Watch this space…

Kelly Barklamb

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