BlackBoard have awarded a $25,000 Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds to Ball State University to ‘to foster and promote the integration of virtual worlds into everyday teaching and learning’. The work will explore a range of pedagogic and administrative issues (you’ll need to scroll down a bit to the right section) around linking BlackBoard with Second Life, some of which could have quite far-reaching outcomes for the use of virtual worlds in education.
Security issues are explicitly addressed, as is the validated association of avatar names with student names for the use of assessment management and enterprise systems. The development of a best practice model for instructional design within virtual environments could help produce structured and carefully directed learning activities with tight control over locations and sequencing of activities that may help overcome the aimlessness that students who don’t engage with SL complain about. Although the award will directly fund development for BSU’s cinema arts course, outcomes will be made available to the BlackBoard community as a whole.
There’s likely to be some way to go before this work can compete with Sloodle‘s achievements in linking Moodle with SL, but it does open up the possibility of secure and suitably controlled use of SL for institutions tied in to BlackBoard.
Thanks to Daniel Livingstone on the Virtualworlds JISCMail list for pointing out this award.