Virtual World Watch

Virtual World Watch (VWW) was a project and service which operated from 2007 to 2012, by myself with support from the Eduserv Foundation. The main purpose of VWW was to find academics in the UK who were using virtual worlds, and to find out if, how and why their use of such technology worked or failed. Many UK academics provided data (informal and formal) over the five year arc of the project.

For the first few years VWW was funded – either as a growing compilation of reports, or as a more holistic information service – by the Eduserv Foundation. After formal funding concluded, the service produced a few more reports (making 13 in total) plus a few other publications. I also presented at academic events and various online events (example), and contributed to media articles (example).

Snapshot reports

These were ten survey-based reports, to gain some kind of ‘snapshot’ of virtual world use in UK Higher and Further Education for that time.

# Year Title
1 2007 A July 2007 “snapshot” of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life.
2 2007 An update of the July 2007 “snapshot” of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life.
3 2008 A Spring 2008 “snapshot” of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life.
4 2008 The Autumn 2008 Snapshot of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life.
5 2009 The Spring 2009 Snapshot of Virtual World Use in UK Higher and Further Education.
6 2009 The early Summer 2009 Virtual World Watch snapshot of virtual world activity in UK HE and FE.
7 2009 Virtual world activity in UK universities and colleges. An academic year of expectation?
8 2010 Virtual world activity in UK universities and colleges: Virtual teaching in uncertain times.
9 2010 Virtual world activity in UK universities and colleges. “What now?”
10 2012 Virtual world activity in UK universities and colleges. Zombies can’t fly: the enduring world of the virtual.

Other reports

The project also produced three non-snapshot reports.

# Year Title
1 2008 “Measuring” the Impact of Second Life for Educational Purposes.
2 2009 Choosing virtual worlds for use in teaching and learning in UK higher education.
3 2010 Zen and the Art of Avatar Maintenance.


Data, observations and trends were presented at various academic events around the UK and online. There is some duplication of content across the slidedecks.

# Date Presentation title and event
1 2008 From snapshots to Virtual World Watch. An early summary of the move from stand-alone snapshot reports to a more integrated Virtual World Watch service.
2 2008 Virtual World Watch – summary of Second Life Snapshots. A summary of findings so far, for the Eduserv Foundation (the funders of Virtual World Watch).
3 2009 CETIS/Eduserv Foundation workshop. A Virtual World Watch presentation to the JISC CETIS/Eduserv Foundation workshop in Glasgow.
4 2009 Surveying Virtual World use in UK Higher and Further Education. A presentation for the Jisc RSC West Midlands “Virtual Worlds in Education Forum”, in Wolverhampton.
5 2009 Virtual Worlds: their use in UK learning and teaching. A presentation at the JISC RSC Eastern Regional Conference “The Reality of Virtual Worlds”, held in Cambridge.
6 2009 Virtual World Watch: past, present and future. A summary of Virtual World Watch activities, midway through the first year of funded service activity.
7 2009 Learning through falling: Second Life in UK academia. The keynote presentation of the JISC RSC Northern conference on virtual worlds in education.
8 2009 Choosing the best virtual world for your teaching needs. A Virtual World Watch presentation for the JISC Innovating 
e-Learning 2009 Online Conference.
9 2009 Surveying Virtual World use in UK universities and colleges. A presentation at the National Workshop on Teaching in Immersive Worlds in the University of Ulster.
10 2010 Learning using Virtual Worlds. A presentation at the “Where next for virtual worlds in UK higher and further education?” event, London Knowledge Lab, London.
11 2010 Virtual Worlds in Education … why? A presentation to the Information Studies department in the University of Sheffield.
12 2010 Virtual Worlds and the (real) West Midlands. A presentation to the JISC West Midlands Virtual Worlds in Education Forum, City College Birmingham, Tyseley.
13 2010 Virtual Worlds. What is the point? A presentation to the Learning Innovation Research Group at Coventry University.
14 2010 Don’t look back in anger… A presentation at the “Big Issues in Immersive Virtual Worlds” conference at Coventry University.


Several publications were written during, or as part of, the project. These included:

# Year Title
1 2007 The Second Life of UK Academics, in Ariadne.
2 2008 Second Life in higher education, medicine and health, in He@lth Information on the Internet.
3 2010 UK university and college technical support for Second Life developers and users, in Educational Research, Volume 52, 2010 – Issue 2: Virtual Worlds and Education.


During 2009, I ran a weekly podcast which featured a UK academic busy with virtual world development, use or research. Seven of these podcasts are back online, all hosted in a Soundcloud channel; the sound quality is variable.

# Live Interviewee
1 March 9th Simon Bignell describes his Second Life activities at the University of Derby.
2 March 16th Sheila Webber describes some of the information science-oriented work she has been doing in Second Life.
3 March 30th Mark Childs tells us about the Theatron project, and some of the issues hes had with teaching using Second Life.
4 April 20th Anna Peachey talks about some of the Second Life activities she has been involved with at the Open University.
5 May 10th Andy Powell was the Head of Development of the Eduserv Research Programme, formerly the Eduserv Foundation. The Foundation funded a number of Second Life and Virtual World research and development projects, as well as Virtual World Watch, an island and several events.
6 May 18th Annabeth Robinson describes how she got into Second Life, her art developments within, and her experimentation and educational work with other virtual worlds.
7 May 25th Anne Cunningham talks about how she got Second Life, and some of the work she is doing with this particular virtual world.

Photographs and screenshots

On Flickr there are four albums of screenshots from attending events in Second Life and exploring academic “islands”, an album of informal photos from academic conferences I’ve spoken at, and an album of random virtual world screenshots.

# Year Title
1 2007 Eduserv Foundation Symposium 2007. Some pictures from the Eduserv Foundation Symposium, held in London and in several virtual arenas in Second Life.
2 2008 Screenshots of UK Higher and Further Education institutions (universities and colleges), and the academics within, who have developed a presence or resource in Second Life.
3 2008 Zooming in and out of locations in Second Life to take a wider look at the environment.
4 2008 What not to Rez. A few screenshots from an event held by the Jisc Emerge project, in Second Life, in April 2008.
5 2009-2010 Travelling to, eating and speaking at several academic conferences across the UK, on aspects of virtual worlds.
6 2007-2009 A few random screenshots from exploration of different virtual worlds.