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The Slenz Project Gets International Award

The Slenz Project Gets International Award

Second runner-up EDUBLOG

‘Oscar’ to SLENZ Project Team

‘Phenomenal’ result for team from Aotearoa/New Zealand

A chance meeting in the virtual world of Second Life three years ago between Dr Clare Atkins, of the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, and education-online tools developer and Second Life builder Aaron Griffiths came to a climax yesterday with an award for the SLENZ Project in the prestigious, international EDUBLOG 2009 awards in the “best educational use of a virtual world” category.

The equal second runner-up placing for the the team from New Zealand was greeted with elation by SLENZ Project team members - “the best Christmas present ever “- and seen by independent educators, academics and education institution administrators as “fantastic”, “phenomenal” and “unprecedented.”

The New Zealand team won its second runner-up place in a competition which pitted it against 14 of the world’s best “virtual world” education organisations. The winner of the title was, Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; the first runner-up, Virtual Round Table Conference; the SLENZ Project shared second runner-up status with ISTE’s Second Life Island.

‘Set a benchmark’

“I think this is just phenomenal,” said Scott Diener, one of the world leaders in Second Life education and associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, in a message to the team. “The SLENZ team has truly set a benchmark against which other developments should measure. I hope I can say ‘I am so proud of you’ without it sounding pretentious…because I am so proud of you.”

Tony Gray, the chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology which hosted the SLENZ Project initially on its island of Koru in Second Life, said in a message to Atkins on hearing the news: “This is a fantastic outcome and significantly achieved through your passion and commitment to the project. I am very proud that NMIT should have first of all taken a lead and secondly that we can show a peer-reviewed achievement as a result.”

The SLENZ Project grew out of that first meeting between Atkins and Griffths who both dreamed of seeing “students interacting with each other and their international peers, with the Second Life environment, with teachers, domain experts, inspirational speakers from all over the ”real” world”.

The NZ$500,000, 18-month project was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission. It has been completely developed under Creative Commons license with all builds available for use or free acquisition by anyone in the virtual world.

The project was designed to determine whether there are benefits from providing education in a virtual world and, if so, how those benefits can best be harnessed for New Zealand tertiary students. It included pilot programmes in midwifery, at Otago Polytechnic, and foundation (bridging) learning, at Manukau Institute of Technology.

The EDUBLOG placings were chosen by an international public vote.

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