I agree with everything you have brought up. You say
|"moderators need to be super lively, engaging, attentive and highly responsive - and all in real time. They have to learn to effectively use and model one-to-one backchannel communication, while facilitating the whole group, to ensure they can support everyone. They have to be thinking on their feet". These are the same skills a facilitator or moderator needs in the web conferencing environment but here is where I get unstuck: once the learners are in the web conferencing platform, you don't have to worry
"about why an avatar is stuck on the other side of a wall and what might be happening when a participant says "I can't seem to sit" ". This implies that you definitely must have co-moderators or producers with you to take care of those hurdles in real-time.
You also say (as Emily implied when posting about PPT) that " There is NOTHING worse than sitting your avatar on a seat in an auditorium to listen (whether chat or audio) to a lecture style performance by a static avatar at a podium." Again, I can only agree.
I have not 'lead' learners in SL but have participated in various sessions and activities to 'see' and 'feel' what is going on there. On many occasion, I have found myself (or my avatar) sitting around a log fire or sitting in an auditorium watching PPT and every time, I ask myself 'Why am I in SL? I don't NEED to be here for this'.
Although I am a very experienced moderator in live online training using web conferencing technologies, I personally find SL so immersive that I can't do much else than concentrate on what is happening there, whereas in a conferencing platform, I can happily multitask. Consequently, this is a wonderful experience if the purpose for being there is well founded. On the other hand, when I feel that I don't have to be in this environment for the said purpose, I just want to escape and do other things. Hence the need for rich, deep meaning interaction and learning opportunites.
My 'richest' experience so far in SL was the following: I was invited at the last minute by an educator to observe a session with her learners. I didn't know who the learners were. The educator often 'disappeared' to help other learners get in to SL or 'bring them back' when they'd got lost. Consequently, her avatar often 'died' (head down, slumped shoulders). The students kept asking me 'Why are we here?' 'What are we going to learn today?' 'Where is the teacher?' etc. Their frustration and feeling of being abandoned was really acute. I myself was asking myself the same questions and beginning to feel both frustrated and bored. I didn't have much in my inventory at the time, but I did have a cocktail, a Bloody Mary. So, I started a conversation and then offered the learners a drink (the only one I had). This then led to a great discussion about cocktails, ingredients, restrictions on drinking of alchohol, other learners offering drinks they had, etc. I had some nice audio files in my inventory, so we started to dance and shared the files. Then, feeling tired, I sat down, whilst they continued to dance and exchange music. Whilst I 'sat' in SL, I thoroughly enjoyed oberving how the learners were learning on the spot how to exchange files: the peer-to-peer learning was very rich.
The the educator 'came back'