Where are we now?
A short video on where we are now.
Monash Chinese Island is an initiative of the Chinese Studies Program at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Chinese Island is a rich Chinese language and culture learning environment in Second Life primarily set up for students and staff at Monash University to engage in both synchronous and asynchronous learning, but also open to the general public.
The island, its facilities, the learning materials and activities have been designed with strong social constructivist and COTBLL (communication-oriented task-based language learning) pedagogical principles in mind. Both synchronous and asynchronous activities place the learner at the centre of the learning experience. The role of teaching staff on the island is to guide and nurture students as they work their way through specific tasks. When staff are not present, learning is facilitated and scaffolded by the island’s virtual-physical environment, virtual infrastructure, rich visual environment, rich sound-scape, as well as rich text-based and multi-media learning materials.
Since the beginning of 2008 over 1000 undergraduate Chinese language and culture students ranging from beginner to advanced intermediate level have participated in a range of task-based learning lessons on the island.
In 2009 a new initiative was trialled on the island with the implementation of the Chat Club, a mentor scheme for beginner and advanced beginner students. From the 27th of July to the 30th of October a senior student-mentor was available on the island 4 times a week for free text and voice-based chatting in Mandarin, as well as answering questions and doing practice spoken exercises specifically related to classroom-based course material. The Chat Club ran every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night from 8-9pm Australian Standard Eastern Time.
Since 2013, in addition to the regular task-based lessons requiring students to interact with the island’s non-player characters (NPCs) via text-chat in Mandarin to complete a range of communication-oriented tasks, two new forms of learning are being implemented on the island:
- Regular weekly live classes for off-campus Introductory level learners are conducted throughout each semester in a virtual classroom in the island’s multi-storey building
- Task-based classes are being held three times a semester that require students (located in Australia) to verbally interact in Mandarin with native speaking teaching staff from the National Taiwan Normal University (physically located in Taiwan) to complete a range of tasks designed to reinforce and extend content in the main textbook used in the main classroom-based curriculum.
Where have we come from?
Chinese Island is already the second iteration of our Chinese language and culture teaching and learning activities in Second Life. For a brief overview of how we got here, please watch the following video:
2007 – 2008
This video shows where it all started. It talks about the principles and goals behind developing a Chinese-themed virtual environment in Second Life. This is the original build on the main Monash Island, but since 2009, a whole new island has been established for the learning of Chinese language and culture.
The following video gives an overall view of Monash University’s presence in Second Life as of 2009. It shows builds from a number of different faculties on both the main island and a number of other islands.
The video also shows lessons undertaken by 1st year 2nd semester students and another series of activities undertaken by 3rd year Chinese Media Studies students.
The lesson undertaken by the 1st year students involved them having to purchase a railway ticket at the Chinese Island railway station that had to meet certain very strict criteria, and also had them inquiring at a real estate agent about accommodation as foreign students studying on Chinese Island. The accommodation task also required the students to identify which of the several houses for rent met the criteria they were given and had to inspect the house they believed to be the one that best fit the criteria.
The lesson undertaken by the Chinese Media Studies students involved them having to interview a number of Chinese speaking guests from China, Singapore and the USA, both at the home sites of the guests in Second Life and in a television studio created on Monash’s main island specifically for a television chat show during which the Chinese Media Studies students interviewed the same guests more formally. They also filmed a more formal ‘news desk’ report based on their interviews and wrote a text-based news report in Chinese using the information they had gleaned from the interviews.
The lesson shown here required students to go through the process of seeing a doctor in China. The process is real and based on an actual clinic at a university in China. The students were given a ‘Lesson Manual’ in which they read (in Chinese) a brief introduction to 茶叶蛋 (chá yè dàn – tea eggs) and 玉米 (yùmǐ – corn) both snacks commonly available on the street in China and also about seeing a doctor in China. They then had to go out on the street and buy either a tea egg or a piece of corn, which as you will see from the video makes their avatar ‘sick’. To get better and stop the symptoms (clutching their stomachs and groaning or coughing), they have to negotiate their way through the whole process of seeing a doctor communicatively to obtain medicine that will make them better.
This video is an exemplar that was provided to students before the lesson to give them some idea of what to expect during the lesson.