04 March 2010

Chatting about instructional design and Second Life with Maria Schutt

I was talking to Maria Schutt yesterday just after we had both attended a colleague's dissertation defense in Second Life. She had attended from her office, I from mine. Our conversation afterward was face to face. I happen to have two computers in my office, so I attended in Second Life and via the Ustream live video of stream.  Maria attended via Ustream. She didn't see the value of being in world. It was, after all, a "2D" experience--a presentation. I attended both modalities because I tend to get fidgety at online presentations, no matter where they take place.  I thought flipping back and forth would occupy the fidgets. When I have a choice though, I usually go for the simplier technology.

In our conversation, we talked about the value-added, and the instructional value-added of Second Life.   We talked about its value in terms of usability for students and instructors. Usability is directly related to cognitive-load. If a user has to think too much about using a tool,  s/he has less capacity to think about the stuff of learning. Usability can also be tied to motivation. If a user has to expend more energy than expected or desired to use a tool to accomplish a goal, s/he likely experiences a barrier to learning. After all, it's about the goal, not the tool, and value is about worth and usefulness.  

I appreciate Maria's hit on these kinds of issues. She's been teaching online for 10 years and she teaches instructional design. She's open to the cutting edge,  but she's not seduced by technologies for the sake of technology. She takes a systematic approach to designing learning.

LIke me, she's also attentive to the value proposition (the cost/benefit ration) of a particular instructional design, where cost can mean the time the instructor spends on design and implementation, as well as the time students spend on learning. The benefits include students achieving learning outcomes as well as instructors designing and delivering effective instruction. I think we both would like more evidence weighing in on these issues when it comes to the instructional uses of Second Life.