Supervising Higher Degree Research (HDR) Candidates at a Distance: What Do Emerging Virtual World Technologies Have to Offer?

Supervising Higher Degree Research (HDR) Candidates at a Distance: What Do Emerging Virtual World Technologies Have to Offer?

Julie Willems (Monash University, Australia), Helen Farley (University of Southern Queensland, Australia), Allan H. Ellis (Southern Cross University, Australia), Debbie McCormick (Monash University, Australia) and Dan Walker (University of Queensland, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4205-8.ch027
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Abstract

New information and communication technologies provide opportunities and challenges for teachers. Emerging virtual world technologies, such as Second Life, are a current example of this. Early adopters and innovators are currently exploring what these technologies offer specific cohorts of students, such as the distance higher degree by research (HDR) candidate. This chapter explores the experiences of three educators and four HDR candidates using virtual worlds as part of the supervisory process. Each case study explores the potentials and pitfalls of the medium from the individual’s perspective, and suggests solutions to overcoming some of the challenges. Subsequent thematic analysis of the case studies helps to support the field of literature on using virtual worlds in formal education. Demonstrating the potential merit of virtual worlds to support the HDR candidate, the chapter concludes with a range of possible research directions for this new and exciting field of study.
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Media, Muves, Second Life And Distance Hdr Supervisions

One of the challenges with distance supervision across geographical or time zone differences is finding a compatible technology between supervisor and student for communication purposes (Orr, 2010) encompassing the various aspects of the HDR supervision process. There are many media that can potentially be used to for distance HDR supervisions with each supporting different kinds of teaching and learning experiences. Laurillard (2002) classifies the media for teaching and learning into five principal groups. These five groups are the narrative, interactive, communicative, adaptive and productive forms of media. In terms of the DE HDR candidate, examples of the types of methods and technologies that are representative of each form of media include: written documents and/or accompanying comments for the narrative media; web resources are examples of interactive media; communicative media include telephone, email, audio, formal video conferencing and Skype; virtual laboratories and simulations are examples of adaptive media; and productive media involve expressive opportunities ranging from the writing of essays through to the creation of a model. These principal media forms (Laurillard, 2002, p. 90) are summarised in Table 1 (below).

Table 1.
Five principal media forms in e-learning (©2002. Laurillard. Used with permission)
Media formsMethods/TechnologiesLearning experience
NarrativePrint, TV, video, DVDAttending, apprehending
InteractiveLibrary, CD, DVD, Web resourcesInvestigating, exploring
CommunicativeSeminar, online conferenceDiscussing, debating
AdaptiveLaboratory, field trip, simulationExperimenting, practising
ProductiveEssay, product, animation, modelArticulating, expressing

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