Team Profile:

Project Name: Virtually Enterprising

Showcase presentation:

Public Contact Details:

Name: Deslie-Ann Osborn
Role in the project: Project Manager
Phone: (02) 6648 2406 (North Coast TAFE)

Other team members:

Els Daglincks
Sabina Priestley
Marie Power
Deb Kelly
Sally DeGuigand (Virtual Enterprise Australia)
Jo Kay (Jokaydiagrid) -
virtual world developer 'extraordinaire".

Project Profile:

‍What is the problem or opportunity you are addressing in this project?

Development of a virtual trade show in a virtual world (like Second Life but not Second Life!) will enable our VE (Virtual Enterprise) learners to set up and participate in their annual Trade Shows collaboratively with students from other VEs (Virtual Enterprises) from around Australia and perhaps even internationally in the future.
This is a great opportunity for learners from VEs across the country to learn new skills and strategies from their VE counterparts without having to travel great distances at certain times of the year - learners can be exposed to opportunities to enhance their learning more often at times of the year that suit them in a highly-engaging way.

‍Who are the learners and how will they benefit from this project?

This project will focus on Business Administration course attendees enrolled in Business courses that use the Virtual Enterprise as the basis of the course. Currently learners attend class when they can, but remote learners and students who can't always attend class because of work and other commitments will benefit from being able to complete the 'Trade Show' participation part of the course online and 'live' with others in their group - they won't miss out on any of the preparation and collaborative activities that normally only occur in the classroom setting.
Many of the learners are young (school leavers, adolescents, young workers) and are easily engaged with technology. These learners (and the older ones) will benefit from the intense interaction with this higher-level technology in terms of gaining confidence & employability skills in the use of new technologies. It is also expected that classroom engagement is enhanced.
Learners from classes in one location will benefit from not only seeing the ideas and innovations of students & teachers from other locations, but also communicating, discussing and working together on those ideas in the 'live' environment.

‍How are you currently delivering this training? (ie prior to the project)

Prior to this project learners are attending face-to-face classes to prepare for and participate in the Trade Shows (although some are not always able to attend because of work, other commitments and/or remote physical location). Trade Shows are currently set up and implemented at a physical location (one of the campuses) to which some students from other locations travel (however this is not always possible due to time and financial constraints).

How will your project demonstrate the power of broadband to enhance outcomes for learners?

Virtual world platforms (ie: Second Life) are bandwidth-hungry applications that have, up to now, mostly struggled to maintain network connection (this was made clear at an AFLF eLearning Conference 4-5 years ago where Second Life was being demonstrated and touted as an educational tool but bandwidth prevented the live demonstration from performing smoothly and the presenter continually dropped out or experienced long screen delays). Although engaging, effective, mainstream learning experiences were therefore virtually impossible.

Improved, more powerful broadband means that students accessing the 'virtual world' to meet with and collaborate on learning tasks with students from other regions, can do so without hindrance (ie: screen delays and network dropouts are non-existent when using up-to-date devices). This unhindered, streamlined, and fast access to this type of online learning will lead to higher levels of task completion through:
  • ongoing, higher levels of student engagement (most of the students in the targeted classes are age-appropriate for and enjoy this type of technology)
  • learners from a variety of locations engaging with and collaborating in learning tasks online simultaneously ('live')
  • 24/7 access to other learners and range of facilitators

‍Please list 5 key words (comma separated) that people can use to find your project

virtual, enterprising, VE, online, trade

Project deliverables:

The resource

A zipped copy of the buildings (Trade Hall/Conference Centre and Training Centre) is available for use by others. You would need to 'rent a SIM' on jokaydiaGrid (link in contact details above) to extract the copy to.
View this very visual Prezi to see what you'd be getting.

The Case Study

Download this case study to find out more about how the resource was used and how it measured up to our expectations.

Monthly Project Update:

Project Update
January 2012
We have a very excited team! Having funding to build our own virtual world platform is a dream come true for these teachers. We're underway with these preliminary design ideas from Jo Kay:
The next step is to start populating the site with assets once feedback comes back on Mon 30th Jan from the project team members. We intend to be undertaking training in the Stage 1 prototype by early March.
February 2012
The virtual world is well under construction's where it was at on 8th Feb 2012 (in this recording the developer shows us around via Connect screen share): (no assets or colour schemes yet - just the shell).
March 2012
Teacher training
Training for the teachers involved in this project took place in Coffs Harbour on March 6. It was a long but very productive day when the following (long) recordings were made. These recordings provide insight into the process teachers need to go through when new to this type of technology and method of teaching & learning. The 'cloud' avatars you see in the recordings are being investigated to find out whether it's a bandwidth or device issue. Virtual world access on campus via our ADSL2+ network (a previously unheard of occurrence) has been made possible by the hard work of NC TAFE's ICTU...
Part One (14:29 mins) Getting familiar with the virtual world
  • logging in, learning to move around, making friends, communicating
Part Two (1 hour, 22 mins)
  • 00:00 - 11:50 - learning to sit, stand, get dressed
  • 22:18 - 46:54 - working with clothing and appearance, zooming in, teleporting
  • 50:20 - end - learning to 'build', working with textures and layers
Part Three (1 hour, 42 mins)
  • 00:00 - 11:00 - Final 'building' practice activities, teleporting
  • 13:00 - Collecting & buying items, setting up Trade Fair booths
  • 29:00 - Creating and animating display boards
  • 1:02:00 - Advanced (using X, Y axes coordinates to position & rotate objects)
Student training
The first test with students took place on March 21. This occurred on campus with the attention of our Institute Director, the Business Faculty Director, and the Director-General who were all visiting the campus on this day. Demonstration via a projector and screen was performed by a confident student who was learning how to use the learning space at that time. The students were so engaged with customising their avatars and building their booths that they didn't really notice the dignatories in the room. The room was buzzing. Student feedback at this time indicated 100% engagement and a positive learning experience.
March 26 - first 'live' attempt at bringing Taree and Coffs Harbour VE students together in the virtual world.
We experienced substantial lags, especially in Taree. Speednet tests revealed very low download & upload speeds, especially as more avatars came into the world and started working in that space. Discussions and further explorations by our wonderfully supportive ICTU into our ADSL2+ 'pipes' have indicated that further work and possible purchase of 'special pipes' will be required to emulate NBN speeds.
April 2012
NBN speeds
North Coast TAFE's ICTU has been working really hard to bring NBN-equivalent bandwidth speeds to us in readiness for testing 'in world' again on May 14/15 with VE students. Solutions are currently being explored & prepared (ie: partnership with SCU using their AARNet OR setting up VE project-specific ADSL2+ 'pipes' minus hindrances such as multiple filters etc).
UK promotion
In the meantime, the Virtual Trade Fair concept has been presented in a conference as far away as the UK. A YouTube promotional video was created by Jo Kay - check it out! to help with this presentation. There's a lot of interest being shown by VE's in Australia and around the globe in Canada & the UK to get involved so we'll be showing VE students and teachers in these areas how it all works 'live' from Adelaide while the Virtual Enterprise International Trade Fair is underway May24/25.
Screen shots
If you interested in taking a quick peek at how it's looking at this stage and what happens in world, here's a PPT with some screen shots...
Next actions
Jo Kay is in the final development phase at the moment - due for completion and handover week of May 14.
Our next step is to test the world with students in Taree & Coffs on campus with the revised and enhanced NBN-equivalent solution mid-May. Included in this test will hopefully be additional students and teachers participating from NBN sites in Armidale and Tasmania in order to test NBN capability more effectively.
May 2012
Our world is basically complete with a few final tweaks being done by the developer. We were able to put it into action this month - our students in Taree and Coffs Harbour were able to put it to the test and use it for trading during a local Trade Fair AND present it at the International Trade Show in Adelaide, showing people from Poland and attendees at the Trade Show in Adelaide around 'virtually'. We've got a couple of things to tweak but as a whole the buying and selling process at the booths worked very well. A couple of the male guest avatars are a bit too spunky tho - we may have to tone them down a bit to avoid them being chased around the Trade Hall!!!
Phoenix finished.png
We also did some more testing, however this part of the project has hit a snag. We discovered that our ADSL2+ connection at TAFE is SO heavily filtered, we could only reach bandwidth speeds ranging from 0.02 - 18mbps! This explains the lag that we've all noticed and the dropping out (and having to re-log in). Then Telstra hit a wall with being able to provide our NBN BDSL connection in time for the May 24 Adelaide Trade Fair - we now have a wait until June 8 for the connection at which time we'll be able to test with all the students.
In the meantime, we were able to test briefly on a pure NBN connection from Armidale, but only with 1-2 teachers - not with all the students - which would really give it the workout we're after. We got speeds ranging from 30-90mbps. Hence, we're now waiting for June 8th with baited breath to test with ALL students online at the same time.
Initial testing though shows HUGE differences in upload and download speeds. If you'd like to see how the project turned out (and see what speeds we acheived on our different locations, click here to view my Prezi (presented at NBN Showcase in Sydney Thursday May 30).
June 2012
The BDSL connection we've been waiting for is still 'in the pipeline' but didn't quite make it for June 15. Even if it had been ready, Coffs campus is now experiencing unrelated localised bandwidth issues which are causing major disruptions to our internet service (sudden and long internet slowdowns due to severe and widespread caching issues). This is impacting now on the implementation of the BDSL connection and has made testing on this campus impossible for a while.
So, Plan B - organise and test on Southern Cross Uni's AARNET connection. We were finally able to achieve this at the 11th hour on May 13th. Due to the fact that the Business students involved in this project up to this point were no longer available to test (students & teachers could no longer afford the time and were unable & unwilling to relocate easily), we asked approx 10 IT teachers to meet us at the other location to assist us with the testing.
What was different on the AARNET connection?
During yesterday’s final test on an AARNET connection we experienced the following speeds:
Upload: 32.61 - 72.82
Download: 7.05 – 75.14
An IT guy in the room explained that the random low download speeds was because at that time a lot of Uni students were accessing the connection at the same time and they tend to do a lot more downloading than uploading when accessing the internet.
The IT teachers who got right into building and rezzing objects so were uploading graphics etc non-stop, providing a real workout for the connection.
We definitely found working ‘in world’ much more ‘robust’ than on our heavily filtered ADSL2+ connection. No lags, no delays, no drop outs – lovely, smooth action.
But we also discovered something unexpected. In the image below you can see fluffy white clouds. These are avatars that aren’t displaying properly. We initially though it might be due to bandwidth but it happened again on the NBN-equivalent bandwidth. When we looked more closely, we realised that it’s not bandwidth at all that causes this – it was only happening to avatars logged in on the under-equipped, less ‘grunty’ laptops (which is why you need decent laptops in addition to the good bandwidth).
Inside the workroom with Coffs students.png