The University of Sheffield (UK) Infolit iSchool

These past few weeks I’ve been spending my inworld time immersed in a MOOC (massive open online course). I plan to blog about this experience soon. But now I want to finish a project I began weeks ago, a show-and-tell on my visits to the University of Sheffield (UK) Infolit iSchool in Second Life®  (SL). I read about this island in the schedule of the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) Conference.

Infolit iSchool tour balloon in front of the Wilfred Saunders Library ("rotten melon" photo setting)

Library interior shot

I was unable to attend the VWBPE conference but read the abstract links with great interest. Innovations in virtual teaching and learning are on the rise, and among them are U of Sheffield’s blended learning approach to a first-year course on information literacy, one that interweaves face-to-face learning with Blackboard, web-based resources, and SL (Ridvan Ata and Sheila Webber’s presentation slides are available on the web).

Infolit Common Room building

Common Room interior

Because one of my teaching goals is to offer a blended learning course that includes virtual world activities, I visited Infolit island as soon as I could – and was quite impressed with what I found. Each of my three visits were necessarily short but adequate, I hope, for offering this illustrated preview of what you’ll find should you make a visit.

Infolit Hobbiton House ("shepherds delight" setting)

Hobbiton House interior shot

Infolit iSchool is the SL home of U of Sheffield’s Information School and School of Education. It’s clearly a working and meeting space for students and faculty. There’s a warmth and charming whimsy to it that made me feel right at home. It feels loved.

Infolit student Team 7 area

Several student residences

Infolit is different from most SL university sites I’ve visited in that I didn’t come across any sit-style classrooms. Instead, I found an abundance of team and small-group work areas, along with project displays and informal places to chat and relax. Plus there are student residences – very cool!

Centre for Information Literacy Research & the Department of Information Studies, 2nd floor

Jason Farradane Centre

Along with “nine SL mini-islands, designed for the students’ information problem activities” (abstract), the island has at least three areas for conferences and full-group discussions: the Skybox Conference Platform with exhibitions; the tree house, “a major venue for events, discussions and entertainment” (balloon whisper); and the Sakura House with a conference suite on the ground floor (not pictured).

Skybox Conference Platform ("shadowset" setting)

The Tree House

I applaud Sheila Webber (Sheila Yoshikawa in SL), Information Studies faculty member and Director of the Centre for Information Literacy Research, for creating a wonderfully vibrant student learning space, one that uses Inquiry Based Learning. The balloon tour ends with this message: “Feel free to explore the island further!” I’m glad I did.

Relaxing atop an elephant on the Infolit iSchool campus




About Lotus Greene

I'm an educator and an explorer and student of virtual worlds -- the interactive Second Life, as well as books, films, music, and art.
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