10 September 2008

Students from another planet

Or at least another world.

If the avatar (online personage) at right is not familiar illustration, you haven't been to the Habbo Hotel. But you might want to go because that's where a lot of your future students are now.

Virtual world perspective. Research from KZero assures us that Habbo is bigger than Second Life (SL), the virtual world that most folks in higher ed have heard of, visited, or resisted. Why should we care about these online spaces? Because if we consider only real world (RL) assessment, we will mistakenly assume that measuring global perspective (yesterday's post) is enough.

The KZero worldview. Kzero (double click on the web site's charts for readability) does not pretend to predict the future of virtual learning environments (our educational application) or even growth of online communities. But the message from the numbers is undeniable: the next wave of college students will arrive on campus not only having used computers for their whole school careers (as in 100% of them) but also having created their own alternate existence in one or more social networks.

Experience gap. The generation gap becomes an experience gap, but not with the older generation being able to claim to be more experienced. While commerce, marketing, and entertainment dominate online experiences such as Habbo and Second Life (and gaming such as World of Warcraft and social networking such as Facebook), educational use is growing. Assessment of that use will grow from the work of the pioneering educators but it will be more valuable if assessment administrators are already familiar with these developments.

Personal experimentation. The graphic here is my own avatar in Habbo Hotel. I modeled it after my junior high appearance, so anyone who knows me in Second Life may see only a slight resemblance. The study of how humans navigate virtual worlds is well under way and already has theories about why some people (like me) aim for approximations of real name and real looks in creating their avatars. Other folks create very different online personalities and, no, our older term of pseudopersonality just doesn't suffice anymore. Similarly, behavior in an online world may be very different from real life (RL). I don't mind disclosing that my first action in my Habbo Hotel room was to drag my stool to the window "for the view." Just what I do in real hotels, too.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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