SPP - Learning community norms

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The Schome Park Programme - Learning community norms

Alternatively known as Terms of Service (TOS) Violations & Learning Community Norms


In October 2007, Schome Park welcomed its first international members, a team of about a dozen students from a US-based after-school club. This was a unique event from several perspectives:

  • It was the first time students from outside Europe were a part of the community;
  • An adult educator from the school in New Jersey served as the club ‘advisor,’ and was essentially responsible for the teens’ behavior as representatives of their school;
  • This group of students routinely accessed Schome Park together, allowing them to communicate simultaneously in real life as well as in-world; and
  • The arrival of “The Americans” coincided with Schome Park’s first utilization of voice in Second Life.

Although kindly and enthusiastically welcomed by the existing Schome Park residents and staff, the Americans’ assimilation into the community was not that smooth. Soon after logging in with their avatars for the first time, a group of American students found themselves together at one of their homes after school. The resident student logged into Schome Park with his computer. Although there are conflicting accounts of what exactly happened next, we do know that one of the other students came into control of the other students’ avatar and acted inappropriately towards other avatars in-world. This was reported and the Schome Park community needed to come together to adjudicate the matter.

To their credit, the owner of the avatar in question took full responsibility for the infraction, apologized, and expressed willingness to accept whatever punishment was decided upon. Others involved were not so forthright and quite a bit of time was spent “investigating” the matter, personal meetings with the students involved (by the American school’s club advisor), and several in-world conversations. To this day we are still unsure what exactly happened beyond the reported infraction that was witnessed and reported.

It is Schome Park policy to have the community decide the punishment for TOS violations and so the matter was discussed in the Schome Park forum. The form of punishment – a temporary ban – was widely acknowledged as appropriate. The only question was the duration.

After much discussion, a week’s ban was agreed upon. The sentence was served without incident by the affected resident, who then re-entered the group and was one of the most active members of the American contingent for the balance of the project.

Benefits and Impact

This was a valuable “learning experience” for all involved. The American students were expecting disciplinary action to be taken by their club advisor as a result of the “misbehaving,” but that did not occur. Schome Park is a community with its own rules and norms; it was important that we respect that and let the situation “play out” accordingly. That is exactly what happened.

Quick wins

  1. The American students would later admit that they enjoyed being treated as equals in the process and not being subject to arbitrary authority “from above.”
  2. The process of exploring the offense was time consuming for the adult leaders but this was transparent to the students; much of the discussion about appropriate penalty happened asynchronously via the forum.


The American students were not as familiar with the TOS as they should have been at the start of the project. This was acknowledged by the Advisor as something that could have been handled better. The students did not really understand they were joining a community of equals and their behaviors would be evaluated in that context. They also were not comfortable in the discussion forum and it was hard for many of them to remember to participate there electronically. Most considered the in-world activity to be the total extent of their involvement in the community.

Key lessons learnt

Initial communications and expectation setting are especially critical in this “hybrid” model, where students interacted both in the virtual and physical worlds.

NB. Contrary to what the history might indicate, the original version of this was written by Yankee, who was the 'adult educator' referred to in the case study. PeterT just cut and pasted it in here from the original wordprocessed version.

The Schome Park Programme - Learning community norms