• WoW Learning Project as A4 Poster May 2010

    WoW Learning Project Questions PDF image

    The V.C. was doing a surprise (to us) departmental visit last month. We had a bit of notice and it was decided that everyone doing projects in our research group should produce a one-page summary of their work. This could then be presented to the V.C. I whipped up the following. As I haven’t completed the analysis for my recent survey into motivations in World of Warcraft, I couldn’t include any of that, so I focussed on the underlying ideas in the project.

    Downloadable Resources:

  • Help! Why Do You Play World of Warcraft?

    The One and Friends at the Start of Razorgore Encounter in Blackwing Lair

    The One and Friends at the start of Razorgore encounter in Blackwing Lair in March of 2010

    I’m now in week two of my first survey into learning, communities of practice, and World of Warcraft in support of my doctorate. The first part of the survey is collecting some in-game demographic details, such as how long people have played, what their first character was, favourite professions, etc. The meat of the survey, however, is a short answer question about why people play World of Warcraft.

    I am still looking for additional responses and the survey is scheduled to close at the end of this weekend (April 18th). If you play World of Warcraft or know other players, I would be grateful if you could encourage them to visit the survey information page and participate. On completion, participants will be given a code to enter a draw for three Blizzard store pets as prizes.

    Tweet, ask in guild, ask at university, or poke your workmates to pass the word along. Just remember that it’s only open to those 18 years or older as I’m interested in examining adults and learning and there are restrictions on participation in things by those younger than 18.


  • Learning in World of Warcraft: The WoW Learning Project

    Interesting facts:

    1. 60% of MMORPGs players are in the 20-35 year-old demographic (Nick Yee in Escoriaza 2009).
    2. In World of Warcraft specifically, 47% of players in 2005 were 26 years or older. (Yee 2008).
    3. About 75% of new students to The Open University are 26 years or older (Jha 2010, p. 20).

    When you consider that World of Warcraft had more than 11.5 million active subscribers by the end of 2008 (Blandeburgo 2009), that’s more than 5.4 million people in an age group very interesting for my work in higher education via distance education. In particular, remember that these 5.4 million people are often very compelled (sometimes even addicted) to play. What is it that motivates these people and what real-life tangible learning benefits are derived?

    Those are questions that I intend to answer in the WoW Learning project, a study of learning in World of Warcraft. Quietly built earlier this month and located at the memorable WoWLearning.org, it will be a repository for data, posts, and papers about my Ph.D. research into the learning, motivation, and communities of practice formation demonstrated by World of Warcraft players, both in the game and on forums.

    As the project will include ethnographic work in World of Warcraft as well as surveys, in the interests of transparency and to help foster credibility, postings are made using my World of Warcraft character name “Elsheindra (Michelle)” instead of my full real name or commonly used Internet nickname of “Eingang.”


  • WoW Survey Design: Putting the Horse Before the Cart?

    I’ve been thinking about the design of the study I want to do on motivation in World of Warcraft. My immediate approach, similar to introductory programming students, was to jump right into the meat of it and start writing survey questions instead of planning. In order to get the data you need in the study, you need to know what questions you want answered. You need to plan. Without knowing that, how can you write survey questions to elicit those answers? So what is it I want to know?

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  • Levelling Lifelong Learning: Annual Progress Review

    Elsheindra the healy-dealy night elfI have my annual Ph.D. review meeting tomorrow afternoon. As usual, I’m more than a bit nervous, especially as I made the big step this academic year of completely dropping my former Ph.D. work and starting a brand new topic that intersects the boundaries of my three main interests: communities, learning and teaching, and Internet-enabled technologies. As part of the review process, we’re asked to produce a 4-page report that explains what we’ve done since the last report. In your first year, this report ought to focus on your thesis proposal, although many students won’t yet have one. I do have some ideas about what I want to do and how I am going to go about it. I’ve made an online version so that it will be indexed and easily findable by others interested in World of Warcraft and e-learning.

    The 30-second summary: Examine how metaphors and game design of World of Warcraft motivate people to learn and to work, with an eye to transferring motivation, social knowledge building, and persistence to online higher education practices, like community building for lifelong learning.

    Click the “More” link below to continue reading the online version of the proposal and progress report. A downloadable PDF version is also available.

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  • What Am I Doing? The Two-Sentence Summary

    For the last several months, I’ve been engaged in various activities all with the same intended goal: generate a concrete idea about what specifically I want to look at in Michelle 2.0, my new Ph.D. I’ve been mind mapping, writing permutation programs, brainstorming, discussing, writing essays, and writing thesis proposal plans. The most successful thing was probably having to sum up what I’m doing briefly for a visitor to the research lab’s weekly meeting this morning. While it answers the Twitter question “What are you doing?”, it’s too long to fit in 140 characters but it does fit into 40 words.

    Q: What are you doing?

    A: Looking at how metaphors and game design of World of Warcraft motivate people to learn and to work, with an eye to transferring motivation, social knowledge building, and persistence to online distance education practices, like teaching and community building.

    There you go. Now we all know!

    I’d just like to point out, though, that my ability to verbalize it so coherently and concisely is a result of all the other writing and thinking I’ve been doing. If I hadn’t written the essay in November and the extremely rough paper outline for a thesis proposal on Sunday, the idea would not have coalesced so concretely. Time, background cogitation and serendipity seem to be strong features of my new Ph.D. For me, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, has been sharply focussed by talking, reading, writing, and going to seminars. It doesn’t matter what the seminars were or how relevant. It’s amazing how much I’ve drawn out of the motivational reading group I was participating in when I didn’t even know I was interested in motivation. Connections appear where you least expect them. The important thing is to take the leap and do.

  • The Times They Are A-Changin’

    “Something has changed within me
    Something is not the same
    I’m through with playing by the rules<br /
    Of someone else's game
    Too late for second-guessing
    Too late to go back to sleep
    It’s time to trust my instincts
    Close my eyes and leap.”

    Lyrics from Defying Gravity, out of the musical Wicked.
    Lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz

    Sometimes you have to be smart enough to realize that the battle you’re fighting isn’t one you are going to win or even sometimes one you want to win. I walked into my supervisor’s office in September and told him I was throwing away all my document similarity and agents work from the last twelve years.

    I took the leap.

    I landed in a new Ph.D. project in the same research group at the University of Sussex but in a completely different area. Good bye, information retrieval. Hello, educational technology.

    Not only do you have to be smart enough to realize you can’t win at some things, you have to be smart enough to realize that you should be doing what you’re already good at and have been doing. My seemingly impetuous decision is not as foolish as it might sound. I have been working in online distance education using educational technology at the Open University since 2000. I am based in a group at the University of Sussex studying how technology can be used to scaffold learning. I am in daily contact with other educational technologists, practitioners and researchers, via Twitter and other social networks on a daily basis. I belong to that community. It’s time to trust my instincts and do what I am.

    Welcome to Michelle 2.0.

  • Some Magic with Merlin

    When I was preparing for my thesis committee meeting earlier this year, one of the things I did was prepare a project timeline. In order to do that, I spent ages testing out project management software again, because working with FastTrack Scheduler was so frustrating and unrewarding. After a lengthy but rushed evaluation of several products, I ended up going with a relatively new product called Merlin from a German company. While Merlin isn’t perfect, it at least wasn’t frustrating to use and its import/export facilities meant that I could overcome some of its reporting deficiencies through the judicious application of other applications.

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