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after action report: Creating Groups in Second Life

Last night we gathered the Extension School CyberOne troops to (a) give our law students a tour of Second Life, and (b) form their own project groups. I definitely learned quite a bit about logistical management in a MUVE:

2006-09-28 Class is Gathered

Here’s Becca and me standing in front of the assembled xSchool students (we had 23 total, plus some lurkers apparently). Now that people have had some time to play around, some are starting to sport some pretty unique and outrageous outfits.

Creating groups part A

2006-09-28 Students Finding a Time

We decided that the most viable groups would be based on time availability rather than project ideas, both because for a distance course time often trumps everything else, and because it’s too early in the course for most people to have a clear idea of what projects they’d like to take on. To make this happen in-MUVE, Ansible created some tiles for people to group themselves on. Since it was hard to read them on the ground, she duplicated each one so that they stood upright…

2006-09-28 Can't make 8 or 9? How about 8:30?

Not all times worked for everyone, and of course the people who couldn’t make the meeting time (Thu, 9-10pm EDT) weren’t there to indicate their time availability. In the picture at left, a group decided to compromise between 8 and 9pm EDT and chose 8:30. Everyone who could make that time stepped off into the space between the tiles, leaving one person who then joined another group. What a way to compromise!

Here’s the Thursday, 10pm group chatting. I’m guessing they are West Coasters!

2006-09-28 Newly-formed group, chatting
2006-09-28 Groups self-organizing

A pretty surreal picture of the group after they’d divvied up. You can see two participants chatting in mid-air. One of the students at the bottom of the picture is sporting a fabulous swan-like dress that garnered quite a few complements. She was our fashion maven for the evening, handing out free Harvard T-shirts. (Don’t tell Harvard’s IP attorneys!)

It was definitely a good way to divvy up the group in-MUVE; however, we’re now left with about 15 people who didn’t show up and we still have to assign. A fun activity and definitely good for building group spirit, but probably not the most efficient way to create groups. Something asynchronous and web-based is probably ideal, though there are precious few options out there for group scheduling. (Someone needs to build a module for Moodle!)

Creating groups part B

In addition to creating groups out of our Extension School students, the other activity for the evening was having the X-School participants show the law students around the island. Becca did a lot of grunt work up front assigning both sets of students to two time slots (8-9pm and 10-11pm). For the first group, we stuck with our original plan of creating groups of 2 xSchool and 2 HLS students. This turned out to be collosally difficult for a number of reasons:

  • We didn’t know who was who — whether any individual was xSchool, HLS, or an interloper. See the next post. We never really resolved this problem; instead, we just kept asking everyone who showed up on the island, “Are you a law student?” Our visitors were probably quite amused (or insulted).
  • The HLS students were plunged straight into a weird environment and didn’t necessarily know how to move around, talk, or listen. It was very hard to get the group separated out into HLS / xSchool. I tried creating a line to divide the two groups and different shapes for each side (it was too hard to get them to understand “Gene’s left”). We solved this later in the 10pm session by getting people to sit, right off the bat, on either side of our ampitheater, like in a wedding. Becca enforced this with an iron fist, which was highly necessary!
  • Any group larger than two was just too hard to track. There was no place of permanence to annotate these groups — the chat was too cluttered to scroll through and find where I said “Mr. Duck, Mrs. Mouse, The Green Bat, and Chicken Little get together!” when Mrs. Mouse asks for her group again. We didn’t have physical spots the way we did for the project groups, and there was no way to forcibly move avatars into them anyway (or at least none handy last night). We partially resolved this at our 10pm session by reducing the group size to pairs — each person had only to remember one other name, though it was still difficult for some.

Overall it was an exciting experience. I’m still awaiting feedback from the law students, in particular, on it. Some of the xSchool students returned gushing that they learned quite a bit as well. I’m a bit more nervous about the ones who didn’t come back. And I feel bad for the ones who came and didn’t get assigned to a group at all because we ended up having an HLS student shortage at the end of the evening. Maybe we can match up the remainders with something like a dating service…?

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