Most orientation stations in Second Life are “traditional” – picture boards with screenshots and text explanations. They might look time-efficient but they don’t offer any interactivity so that new users can immediately try out what they are reading. I believe in learning by doing in order for new information to really become practical knowledge. This is why I have looked at two orientation stations that have a different more interactive and playful approach.
Orientation Station Campus
This is a very small orientation station set in a forest. On arrival, the avatar has to click on the sign attached to a tree to receive a notecard with instructions and some initial tips. Avatars can practise the most basic skills like camera and movement control, flying, manipulationg objects, using the pie menu, offering friendship, using IM, teleporting and buying. In order to learn these skills, avatars have to complete small tasks like “count the fish in the pond by using camera controls” “use build tools to move pieces in place (to build a totem), “teleport to a location, buy a freebie, come back and unpack it”.
The skills that are practised are essential and well-chosen and the tasks are fun, especially when done with a partner or a small team. I did some of the tasks with a colleague of mine who still considers herself a newbie. We laughed a lot while doing some of the tasks but she was often confused and didn’t understand the instructions. Even I was confused at times what we were supposed to.
We both concluded that it is not so much an orientation station but rather a further pracice station where students can be sent to after having learned the basics at an orientation station station. It is not appropriate for complete newbies because it doesn’t explain or show “how to” do things but rather “what to do”. So, students are either expected to find out “how to” by trial and error, which can be a good learning experience, especially if done in a team, but also frustrating if there is nobody to help when students get stuck. I assume that originally there was someone to guide students in doing these tasks.
Orientation Center Virtual Ability
This is a very friendly-looking Orientation Centre build for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to help them learn SL skills. It offers comprehensive step-by-step tutorials which are presented in a very clear way, with additional tips in a different colour. The path is highlighted by large blue arrows drawn on the ground. No way you can get lost here.
At the beginning, the information is presented on signs like on most other islands but very friendly looking signs.
Then, the stations become more interactive and task-based. Avatars read how to do something and can immediately practise it by doing fun tasks:
Practise buying and item: T-shirts and other freebies that can be bought for free
Practise using camera controls: Finding, zooming in and clicking on butterflies. Visual and auditory confirmation.
Practise buying clothes and changing appearance: a house full of freebies for a good start into an avatar’s new Second Life
At the end of the tour, you can click on a mail box to receive a feedback form. This shows they want to keep in touch, serve the community and improve things. Having said that, it seems to be outdated.
There is a Mentor Park, where you can touch a bell to request assistance:
You are making a call to ask for assistance from the SecondAbility Mentors. These are experienced residents here to help new SL residents. Do you want to call a SecondAbility mentor? (call/cancel)
There is a separate area for advanced tutorials.
Some extra points:
– Congratulations and a shower of stars when managed flying
– Mac specific notes (first O. island that I see this).
– A balloon tour of the island
Besides offering clear instructions and congratulating one now and then, it is such a lovely place that I was happy to stay there and try out everything even though my intention wasn’t learning anymore. And as we know, a good atmosphere and nice surroundings can lower the affective filter which is very important for learning to take place.
Both places I have visited were empty except for one friend who I had asked to come along and another MUVEnation participant, doing her homework. Therefore, it is a good idea to go with at least one other person to the Orientation Islands. Besides being more fun, students can immediately practise skills like sending IMs or invitations to teleport.