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Newport's University Sharing Real Research in Virtual Worlds

29 October 2007

What's the best way to share research findings internationally in the digital age? Present them to a huge audience of virtual people in a digitally created world that only exists on the Internet.

That was how the team from the Institute of Digital Learning at the University of Wales, Newport presented details of their latest innovative research and development when they were invited to address a global forum in the online virtual world of Second Life, where people can interact, play and do business.

"The digital world of Second Life hosts cutting-edge virtual classrooms for the real world's major universities such as Harvard and the Open University," said Matt Chilcott, Development Manager at the Institute of Digital Learning.

"It's a vibrant place bursting with new ideas and creativity, and its rules of unity, respect and inclusion make it a fitting venue for us to share our equality and diversity etraining research and development experiences

"As it replicates real world face-to-face meetings it was a fitting venue for us to explain how we developed our innovative new range of online learning materials which include free interactive games that help people explore topics such as disability, age diversity, racial equality and homelessness," added Matt who addressed the virtual audience as his digital Second Life character Casnewydd Maximus.

Matt and his team were invited to discuss their digital learning toolkits on Second Life by America's leading ICT support agency for the Not for Profit sector, TechSoup.org, following meetings at the International Serious Games festival held in New York in June

"Each week TechSoup.org invite key technologists and policy makers from around the real world to their forum held in a digitally created amphitheatre in Second Life to explore best practice and innovation that is advantageous to the world's Not for Profit and charity sector," said Matt.

"We were delighted to be able to address this global virtual audience in the wake of rapid worldwide demand for our innovative open source 'Addressing Barriers - Enhancing Services' diversity etraining resources which incorporate expert video tutorials alongside interactive 'Bytesize Basics' serious games."

Newport's pioneering approach to developing the UK's first interactive etraining package to raise awareness about homelessness as part of equality and diversity online training was of particular interest to the audience members from America and Europe who expressed a desire to work with Newport's University to raise awareness about socially and economically excluded groups within their own countries.

"The world's press has picked up on the fact that Second Life has now created its first wave of real world millionaires but what is less well known is the fast growing number of entrepreneurial disabled people and members of other disadvantaged groups who are finding economic success in this virtual world - free of the barriers to employment they often experience in the real world. In keeping with the findings of the Institute of Digital Learning new media technologies can be used effectively utilized in addressing people's barriers to learning and employment."

Commenting on the success of the latest digital learning tools, Allan Fear, Associate Dean (Research and Enterprise) said, "The University of Wales, Newport's expertise in digital learning has been recognised on both a real world and virtual world international stage. The innovative approaches of the Institute of Digital Learning team help highlight how Newport can fully meet its mission as a Community University seeking to take learning to the heart of its communities, both regionally and internationally, in the digital age."

The Addressing Barriers Enhancing Services series was developed through the Welsh Equal funded Equinex Developmental Partnership with RISE the Learning Network. For further information and to access the free diversity etraining resources visit the website hosted by the Institute of Digital Learning at http://equal.newport.ac.uk

Notes to Editor

The Equinex Development Partnership is a Welsh Equal funded partnership under round two of the European Community Social Fund Initiative. The partnership has been developed to address inequalities and barriers faced by disadvantaged people when trying to access employment, training and educational opportunities at domestic and transnational levels.

The partnership is managed from the Centre for Community and Lifelong Learning at the University of Wales, Newport which has extensive experience in widening access issues. For further information about the Equinex Research and Development projects visit www.equinex.newport.ac.uk

The Institute of Digital Learning (IDL) is a key cornerstone in the University of Wales, Newport's Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Based within the Newport School of Education the Institute (formerly known as the Education Development Unit) operates under the strap line of 'enabling education research, development and enterprise in the digital age'. The IDL hosts research and enterprise funded Learning Technologists, New Media and Video Developers, eResearchers and eCurriculum Developers.

This team works collaboratively with Research Centres in the University of Wales, Newport, Cardiff University, University of Glamorgan, University of Wales Institute Cardiff and Swansea University utilising the latest new media learning technologies to enhance the learning experiences of students studying on Welsh Assembly Government Knowledge Exploitation Fund and other directly funded projects. The team also makes a key contribution to Welsh Equal Equinex development partnership whose partners include the National Autistic Society, the South East Wales Racial Equality Council, Careers Wales and Newport City Council.

The IDL has a recognised specialism in applying the latest e-learning tools (including games based learning, video expert tutorials and interactive case studies) to develop blended learning curriculum across a broad spectrum of curriculum areas and delivery and accreditation levels. The IDL learning material outputs are accessed across education, service and manufacturing workplace setting throughout Wales.

The RISE Learning Network is a partnership of all those involved in lifelong learning, and the provision of learning, across South East Wales, and is a network of over 200 centres. RISE has been developed to give learners a voice, by enabling them to influence the facilities and provision that are available across the Five Counties, and to develop curriculum to meet these requirements. Being demand-driven will help to achieve greater engagement with learners, and assist in the cultural, social and economic regeneration of the region.

The RISE initiative is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), and the ESF Objectives 1 and 3 with the aim of helping to promote the development and structural adjustment of a region that has fallen behind other parts of the European Community.


For further information contact:

Phil Mansell

Press & Communications Officer

Marketing Services

University of Wales, Newport

Caerleon Campus, PO Box 179

Newport, South Wales

NP18 3YG

Tel: 01633 432822

Mobile: 07821 028668

Email: press@newport.ac.uk


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