VR module coursework

Note: The assessment guidelines published below presuppose that your project will be based on work using the Second Life or OpenSim multi-user virtual environments platforms.  I may in exceptional circumstances–for example, in response to client requirements–have approved proposals for projects based on other applications (for example, Blender3D or Daz3D Hexagon for modeling complex sculpted prims) or other multi-user platforms (for example, Unity3D, Blue Mars, or Open Wonderland); in such cases please ask me for personalised guidelines.

0. Assessment guidelines for students enrolled on CI3105 Virtual Reality

Please read the following guidelines carefully.  There are eight sections, as follows.

  1. What makes a good project? Tips on choosing a good project
  2. What you will submit: a listing of what you will be required to submit as coursework for this module
  3. What I am assessing: a brief note explaining the expected outcomes of your work
  4. The Exhibition: an explanation of how your work will be exhibited
  5. Your creative content: an explanation of how I inspect and assess your creative work
  6. Your project report: a detailed summary of what you should be writing in your report
  7. How you will submit your work: a detailed summary of how you will submit each component of your coursework
  8. Uploading your report to the Project Repository: detailed instructions on how to post your report (and video, if any) to the Project Repository
  9. Checklist: an item-by-item checklist you should use to ensure that you have correctly and fully complied with the submission requirements
  10. Finally

1. What makes a good project?

Each year students ask me what would be a good project to undertake for the assessment of this module. [t.b.c.]

  • Any project undertaken for a real client (I shall usually be able to place up to 20 students a year with clients)
  • A project that clearly falls within the four primary application areas of virtual worlds at the heart of this module: education, business, culture and heritage (including digital art), and government
  • A high-quality product of any kind that can be successfully sold from the Second Life Marketplace

Finally, take a look [t.b.c.]

2. What you will submit

Submission summary:

  1. Exercise: Orientation | Due end of week 2
  2. Exercise: Basic building | Due end of week 3
  3. Exercise: Working with textures | Due end of week 4
  4. Exercise: Advanced building techniques | Due end of week 5
  5. Exercise: Scripting basics | Due end of week 6
  6. Submission of initial proposal | Due last week of Spring Term
  7. Exhibition: poster and prototype | In last week of taught course
  8. Final report and creative content | Due on L6 common hand-in date
  9. Module feedback on the module wiki

<!– commented out
[Commencing the 2010-2011 session only, the exercises in the early weeks are ungraded.  Failure to successfully complete the exercises, however, will result in your final grade being capped, as follows:

  • non-completion of exercises 1 and 2: final grade capped at 40%
  • non-completion of exercises 3 and 4: final grade capped at 50%
  • non-completion of exercise 5: final grade capped at 60%

Fuller details of the weekly exercises, which begin in the session 2010-2011, will be inserted here.  For 2009-2010, please continue reading.]
–>
In the first instance you will submit, in the final week of the Spring Term, your project proposal.  Although when subsequently re-written and expanded as the executive summary of your end-of-module project report it will be worth up to 20% of your final grade, it will not be marked at the time of submission–I am requiring a proposal at this stage simply and uniquely as evidence that you have decided on a specific project, work on which should ideally begin during the inter-term break.  You should also enter a short title for your project against your name in the online student spreadsheet.  In the 2009-2010 session, this is published at:

http://www.editgrid.com/user/chrishutchison/Student_SL_Names_2011

Please note, however, that failure to submit your proposal by the published submission deadline may result in this section of your report being capped at 40% (i.e. 40% of the 20% allocated to the Executive Summary).

3. What I am assessing

First of all please note carefully that, whether you have worked as part of a team or alone, I am assessing each of you as an individual on the basis of your individual report and the practical work that you have accomplished.  Team work does not presuppose nor imply team assessment!

Students routinely ask me: “What do I need to do to achieve an A grade?” to which, in light of the enormous heterogeneity of possible projects, my answer can only ever be: “Deliver work of an A grade standard”.  In general, however, be guided by the following statement:

You are being assessed on your professionalism in executing the project to appropriate standards and thus on your fitness to practice on graduation.  The grade you receive on completion of the project will be a measure of your employability in the field of virtual world development.

As more explicit guidance, each component of the assessment is more fully explained in the following sections.  Close adherence to the guidelines and caveats below are your best guidance to achieving a good grade.

4. The Exhibition

The Exhibition comprises two components:

  • an in-class demonstration and discussion of your project work in the final week of the taught course
  • a permanent exhibition of your project poster in-world (the poster to be submitted to me, in-world, as a full-perm texture, in A4-format portrait orientation, its longest–i.e., vertical–edge not exceeding 1,024 px)

Although I may revisit and re-grade your in-world work later, in many cases, due to constraints on my time, the exhibition should be assumed to be your only opportunity for me to review your creative work in Second Life.  It’s therefore in your interests that you present as complete a prototype as possible; and that you are able to clearly, cogently, and succinctly explain what work, if any, remains to be done.

On request, I shall endeavour to review, and be prepared to re-grade, your creative work up until the coursework hand-in date for the module.

5. Your creative content

As a general rule, I shall expect your creative work to be as close to complete as possible; other than in exceptional circumstances, a ‘prototype’ will generally not be acceptable.

Since it is likely that, for the majority of students, your content will have been created in, or for use in, Second Life, I shall expect your work to be submitted with full (copy, modify, transfer) permissions, thus enabling me to inspect the content of the Edit windows of your object.  The first stage of marking consists in identifying exactly what objects you own–this is particularly important in the case of team builds where I need to determine what components individual team members have been responsible for creating:

Display owners

Display owners (click to enlarge)

I then inspect objects and their component prims to determine the names of the content creators.  Thus, in the screenshot below, although Khoisan Fisher is the owner of the bay, the creator of the torches is shown to be Eric Linden (remember that you may use up to 25% third-party content in your build):

'Inspecting' objects

‘Inspecting’ objects (click to enlarge)

By very dint of the fact that it’s not possible for me to anticipate all possible errors, it’s impossible to give an exhaustive checklist of other things I look for, or which–if found–would lose you marks.  Below is a brief listing of some of the more salient things I look for:

  • prim count: have you been economical or profligate in your use of prims? could you have saved on the number of prims used?
  • prim flicker: are your prims properly aligned or is there correctable overlap? overlaps will often result in prim flicker
  • alignment: in general are your prims placed accurately? are there gaps? are there misalignments? have you properly used the numerical fields in the Edit window to ensure exact alignment of prims?
  • linked objects: if you have created multi-prim objects, have you linked them together?
  • scale: are your builds scaled for ease of use? if, for example, you’ve created tables and chairs, are they proportionate the size of avatars that would use them? or, if creating a building, are the rooms large enough to allow the camera to view both avatar and room? have you allowed enough headroom for doorways? etc.
  • textures: are your chosen textures appropriate to the objects you have textured? are your textures scaled appropriately? for example, if brickwork, then is the texture proportionate to the natural appearance of the brickwork in real life? if a multi-prim façade, are your textures properly matched for orientation and scale across adjoining prims?
  • scripting: do your scripts work as intended? have you tested them with avatars other than your own? (remember, for example, that some scripts will by default work only for the ‘owner’ until a flag is changed)

6. Your project report

Note: there is a maximum word limit of 4,000 words for the report. This means that I shall not mark a single word beyond that!  Reports submitted in previous years have typically been around 2,500 words.

There is no limit on the number of screenshots and other graphics you can include; and often a high resolution and well annotated graphic can communicate more effectively and tersely than a textual explanation.  (But note: if taking screenshots, ensure that ‘Sun’, bottom of the World menu, is set to ‘Midday’ and that your image is cropped to exclusively the informational content you are using the image to explain.)  Good practice would be to give textual narratives and explanations as appropriate, and to complement with annotated graphics only where these might be argued to illustrate your work more clearly than lengthy text.

1. Executive summary: Begin with your executive summary, stating and briefly describing:

  • the broader context of the work you have undertaken as part of your assessment (for example, redevelopment of the Knowledge Zone on behalf of, and representing the pedagogic strategy of, the Academic Development Centre; or creating an environment for the role-play practice of core social skills for Asperger sufferers, contextualised within appropriate social and clinical theory)
  • the design brief (with a client profile if working for a real client)
  • the timescale of the overall project and the global deliverables for that project
  • your part of, or contribution to, the overall project (for example, the ADC build as a component of the redevelopment of the Knowledge Zone)
  • if working as part of a team, your role (e.g. team leader) and the deliverable expected of, or assigned to, that specific role

2. A technical walkthrough of the work you’ve done: I want you to tell me not only what you’ve done, but why and how: give good account of whatever design decisions you have made, probably with reference (if the project is client-based) to the initial design brief, and give a technical description of the construction process (dimensions, alignments, texturing features, etc) that is rich enough and clear enough to effectively serve as a blueprint or tutorial for your reader to replicate your work.  List and describe (as bullet points or table, for example) your creations / builds, noting any significant features (scripts, low-prim tricks, geometries, bespoke textures, or whatever); include, where appropriate, diagrams (for example, CAD drawings or floor plans), script samples, descriptions of building techniques (for example, modifications you have made of prims via the Edit window), and / or illustrate with annotated screenshots. (Tip: take screenshots of your build throughout the duration of the building process–early screenshots may be useful in illustrating clearly the process by which you created content.)  List content creation applications you may have used (e.g. Gimp, Audacity, Plopp, Blender, Daz3D Hexagon, etc) with explicit accounts of how you used them to generate content. List and briefly describe any 3rd party in-world materials (scripts, textures, objects) you may have used, with justifications for their inclusion in your build.  Include indicative screenshots where these clarify the textual descriptions.

3. Project management: whether undertaken as an individual project or as part of a team you should include in your report some reflective notes on the management of the project.  If an individual build, give an account of your management of the project in much the same way as you would for your FYP.  If team-built, comment on team performance and co-ordination: who were the team members? the team leader? how were component tasks distributed across the team? how (and how routinely) were team meetings managed?  If your project is client-based, this section should include evidence (e.g. exchanges of emails or log of in-world chat) of routine consultations with, and feedback from, your client.

4. Review: state, with explanations as necessary, how successfully you feel you met the client brief (or, if there was no client, then how successfully you achieved your initial aims), perhaps illustrating with a tabular checklist; note any problems you encountered; note any notable successes; list any work remaining to be done, or anything that in retrospect you wish you could have done better.

5. Bibliography and references: compile a Harvard-style bibliography of documents (books, articles, web resources) you have used.  This should at the very least include: resources relating to Second Life as a multi-user virtual environment and its uses (e.g. a standard text such as Second Life: the Official Guide); tutorials and reference documents for content creation (e.g. text or video tutorials); and any relevant background material relating to the project you are undertaking (e.g., if you are building a virtual learning environment, then texts relating to learning and teaching in virtual worlds).  I would of course expect such resources not only to be listed in the bibliography but also to be referenced in the report itself (e.g. if you have listed Peter Anders’ Envisioning Cyberspace: Designing 3D Electronic Spaces in your bibliography, then I might expect to see some reflection on cyber architectures in the body of your report).

For client-based projects you are advised to include, as appendices to your report, a copy of the initial design brief and any client feedback.

You are also encouraged (for extra marks), but not obliged, to create a screen-recorded walkthrough of your creation–published, for example, as a YouTube or Vimeo movie.  This may be particularly important in cases where you have developed your content in a sandbox or on an OpenSim standalone region, and wish to preserve a permanent record of your work.  A video record will, in this case, be considered to constitute part of your final report; and you should post it to the Project Repository (see the instructions given on that page) as well as reference it in your written report by giving the URL of its online location.

NOTE: in cases where the video represents the work of a team rather than of an individual, each team member should reference the same URL in the written report, but post the video to the Project repository only once e.g. in the team leader’s row in the table.  Other members of the team may then, in column 4 of their row in the Project Repository, simply enter a brief note such as “See So-and-so’s column 4 for the team video”.

7. How you will submit your work

Your three major submissions are: the model(s) or content you have created, the final report, and the exhibition poster.  They should be submitted as follows:

  1. The report is to be printed and submitted on paper to the student office and to be posted as a Word document or PDF to the Project Repository of the module wiki.  For fuller explanation of how to post your report to the Project Repository, see the next section below.
  2. The exhibition poster should be submitted to me (not to the student office) on a sheet of A4, in portrait orientation, on the day of the exhibition (the last teaching week of the module); a full-perm copy should also be submitted to me in-world as a texture (just drop it on Khoisan Fisher’s profile); a second paper copy should be attached as an appendix to the report you submit to the student office.  Note that an in-world submission that is not full perm will not be graded!  (For examples of what I’m looking for in posters, see examples from previous years in the Exhibition Space on LearningWorks and in The Knowledge Zone.)
  3. The content you have created: if your work has been done for a real client (e.g. Kingston University’s The Knowledge Zone) on dedicated land, you need only specify the SLURL for the location; if you have created ‘homeless’ models that reside in your inventory, I can either inspect them in a public sandbox or you may submit them by dropping them on Khoisan Fisher’s avatar or profile (ensure that you give your work a meaningful name, e.g. your own name or the name of the project); if your work has been done wholly within a standalone OpenSim installation, you may submit your ‘oar’ file (either on a network hard drive with a hyperlink from the Project Repository, or to me as an email attachment).  Please remember that, for any content to be fully inspected and hence to be marked, it must be submitted with full permissions!  Since this may mean that 3rd party content may be excluded from your submission, ensure that such content is well-documented in your report.

8. Uploading your report to the Project Repository

8.1. Summary

You are required, on completion of your project, to post a copy of your report (or more precisely, a link to your report) in this Project Repository. You may optionally also post a video walkthrough (i.e. a screen recording) of your project.

Why am I requiring you to post a copy of your report here?

  • Posting a copy of your report here inspires your fellow students to emulate your work; if you have posted early, then others may learn from you, just as I hope you have learned from me. Don’t worry: because every body of work is different, even in team builds, so every report is different. Attempts at plagiarism are easily detected, and so are effectively impossible.
  • Posting a copy of your report helps future cohorts by giving them some idea of the kind of work that is done in the module and the kind of report that is expected at the end of the module.

See instructions below for Submitting your report and, following that, Submitting your video.

8.2. Submitting your report to the Repository

The Project Repository is located on the module wiki:

http://vorticism.wetpaint.com/page/Project+Repository

Enter your name and your project title in the first two columns of the table in the Project Repository; then upload your project report to any free online wordprocessor (Google Docs, Zoho Writer, Adobe Buzzword, etc), online publishing platform (Docstoc, etc), or network hard drive (Box.net, MyOtherDrive.com, eSnips, Multiply, Windows Live Skydrive, etc), and create a link to it in the third column of the table below. NOTE! make sure that your link is to a non-password-protected document!

See the detailed instructions below.  For ease of reference, the EasyEdit Toolbar is picture here:

  1. Click the EasyEdit button to open the EasyEdit Toolbar
  2. Type your name in the column headed Your Name
  3. Type the title of your project in column headed Your Project Title
  4. Type a link word in column headed Insert link to your project report (by default, this is “Link to report”); feel at liberty to include any additional links, for example to appendices or feedback from clients
  5. Drag your mouse over the link word(s) to highlight the word(s) you are going to link
  6. Click the Link icon (see screenshot above) in the EasyEdit Toolbar
  7. Enter the URL to your report in the Link to: field of the Add Link floating window
  8. Click Add Link
  9. Click Save or Skip Edit Note in the EasyEdit Toolbar to save this page and close the edit window.

8.3. Submitting your video

You may upload your video to YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, MSN Soapbox, Flickr, Slideshare, or any other video-sharing site. NOTE: in cases where the video represents the work of a team rather than of an individual, each team member should reference the same URL in the written report, but post the video to the Project repository only once e.g. in the team leader’s row in the table. Other members of the team may then, in column 4 of their row in the Project Repository, simply enter a brief note such as “See So-and-so’s column 4 for the team video”.

  1. Record (using e.g. Jing, Wink, Istanbul, or other free screen recording software) and upload your video to YouTube, Vimeo, or other; and have your video window or tab open.
  2. Have this Project Repository open in another tab or window.
  3. In your video window, select and copy the embed code for your video.
  4. Click the EasyEdit button in this Project Repository to open the EasyEdit Toolbar
  5. Select the correct cell in the table below by clicking your mouse in the 4th column of the row in which you have entered your name, project title, and report link.
  6. If you are posting a YouTube video, click the Video icon in the EasyEdit Toolbar; or if you are posting a Vimeo or other video, click the Widget (poll, rss, …)icon.
    • YouTube: in the floating window select Add by embed and enter the ’embed’ code in the field; click the Add video button and, in the next window, Save.
    • Vimeo and other: scroll down the widget window to find and click Other Widget, post your ’embed code’ in the Add the code for your widget field, and then click the Add widget button
  7. Resize your video using the and + icons so that your video is reduced to around the same size as the examples below.
  8. Click Save in the EasyEdit Toolbar to save this page and close the edit window.

9. Submission checklist

You might find it useful to work item-by-item through this checklist to ensure that you are submitting exactly the work required of you in the form and format in which I require it.

Have you …

  • clearly and fully articulated the design brief in your executive summary? if client-based, have you correctly identified your client and your client’s requirements?
  • spell-checked and proofread your report?
  • checked that your bibliography is correctly formatted in Harvard style?
  • verified that the content you are submitting for assessment has full copy, modify, and transfer permissions?
  • posted to the module wiki (the Project Repository) a link to your report?
  • posted feedback to the module wiki?

Only once you have ticked all of the above items should you consider your work for the module to be complete.

10. Finally …

If there is anything in these guidelines that is unclear to you, or if you feel that there is important information that I’ve not included in these guidelines, please send me clear details in an email.

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