Education in Virtual Worlds, Events, Identity and Expression, Second Life

College Debates Hit Second Life

Debating is one of the verbal exercises that draws its strength from the intensity of a physical meeting between two or more people. That close contact and the gestures and facial expressions made during a debate are almost as critical to the arguments being made. The question, then: can debates work online?

St. John’s University in New York is going to give it a try. It is organizing what it is billing as “the first formal academic debate conducted in a virtual online environment.”

The St. John’s Debate Society members will debate the University of Vermont’s Lawrence Debate Union on February 4th at 8:00 p.m. on Emgeetee Island in Second Life. The topic will be on whether tenure should be limited for university faculty.

Only time will tell if the format works. The organizers plan on using SL’s voice-chat function, while the debaters will have to manipulate their avatars in order to gesture and make physical emphases.

Success is almost a moot point here, however, because one of the main reasons the organizers wish to use SL, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, is because SL has so thoroughly penetrated the collegiate level. Colleges in the US and around the world have been using SL more and more for academic purposes, and debating is just another notch in the belt of SL’s peneration into the world of higher education.

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