June 11, 2013

I have been delighted with the results..

Development Award 2012

June 2013

Over the past two months I have been busy on a number of projects to support students undertaking their Level 2 and 3 Plumbing qualifications.

Second Life (SL) Virtual Plumbing College – I was delighted when my college (North West London) confirmed they would continue to fund the SL Region for an additional year.

I believe that winning my award from BPEC, allowed me to demonstrate the on-going need to support and develop the Virtual Plumbing College.  Students and staff are becoming more aware of the opportunities presented by ‘distance learning tools’ such as Second Life.

A number of companies that have apprentices studying at the college have expressed interest in using the Virtual Plumbing College to support Continuing Professional Development of their engineers. Clearly, opportunities offered by SL to allow people to study a vocational subject from home in an interactive and collaborative way have mass appeal. I have been asked to make a presentation to a company management board in August to demonstrate the opportunities for utilising virtual worlds.

For some time now I have considered ‘content’ to be the most important issue to resolve regarding learning opportunities.

Initially in Second Life I was producing many still images and creating lessons from PowerPoint. I then moved onto the creation of interactive 3D ‘working’ models.  The Solar Thermal Heating system is a great example of this.  However, any interactive model like this takes a great deal of resources to create.

Click here to link to the YouTube video of Solar Heating System.

Creating High Definition video content – many of the learners undertaking vocational qualifications are ‘visual’ learners.  They learn best from ‘seeing and doing’ and for this reason Martin made it a priority to create videos to support their practical plumbing activities.

I have been delighted with the results produced by the equipment I have been able to purchase as a result of winning my BPEC award.  The Panasonic GH3 DSLR camera produces amazing video quality. I also purchased a GoPro Hero 3 camera which due to its tiny size, super wide angle lens and being waterproof has given me some amazing shots to edit in.

As an indication of the quality/clarity that is now possible I have uploaded a short clip for you to see. Visit https://vimeo.com/67992621

Unfortunately, the huge file size still presents a problem.  But when loaded on the colleges Virtual Learning Environment and accessed by students it works very well. I am now planning to make a series of short ‘How-to’ videos over the summer to support students in understanding the practical tasks they need to undertake to enable them to successfully complete their course.

The importance of e-learning for todays vocational students should not be underestimated. What is e-learning? Essentially, e-learning is ‘technology-enhanced learning’ (the definition often used by the European Commission) to emphasise that Information and Communication Technology is adding to, and enhancing, existing good practice and contributing to ‘blended learning’, blended learning being the practice to comingle every available tool of erudition for the advancement of all learners.

As of May 2013, just a decade since its creation there are more than 33 million registered users of Second Life.  Second Life is a Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE), there are now dozens of alternatives to Second Life.  Over the past months I have been looking at new opportunities to develop a total solution for immersive learning/training.  Over the remainder of this year I will continue to investigate new ways of bringing ‘technology-enhanced learning’ to students undertaking plumbing and gas studies.

Numerous higher education and university establishments (including Harvard and many in the UK) have their own virtual campus within Second Life.  But very few Further education colleges have understood the potential of this powerful educational tool.

I believe that each year the ‘UK workforce’ needs to continue developing and up-skilling its vocational labour force to maintain a competitive edge. People in study find it difficult to balance their existing commitments to work and family life without the additional burden of subject updating in their area of vocational expertise.  For this reason alone I see tremendous opportunities for supporting study through MUVEs.

MUVEs allow for student centred learning to take place. This is a constructivist view of learning with the importance being placed on activity, discovery and independent learning. For this to happen you need content so, my focus over the coming months and indeed years is to build this ‘library’ of content.

To view all images from this project please click here