Education in Virtual Worlds, Second Life

Educational Institutions Spread Their Wings in Second Life

Two reports build on the body of evidence and insight on the use of Second Life for education:

At George Washington University a graduate-level course in instructional design was created by David Cillay, an assistant dean for distance education, as reported on The course was taught completely in Second Life, with the students, using their avatars, communicating with Cillay and one another through the course’s island (learning space) in Second Life.

Cillay was impressed with the level of text and voice interaction between the students, even if they were only avatars onscreen. The students discussed what ‘instructional design means’ and took field trips to other SL locales such as a nuclear power plant.

Across the pond, City College Norwich in the UK is forging ahead with its own island. The location will give users a virtual tour of the campus and access to training and job vacancies. The school also hopes, down the line, to develop an educational presence.

“Second Life has fantastic potential for learning,” said Dick Palmer, the principal, “which we will be starting to use more fully next year. For example, our new diploma students will come from lots of different areas, but Second Life will allow students to get together in an informal learning zone. We are excited to be embarking upon such an innovative initiative.”

After the experiment with virtual education at GWU, Cillay offered three recommendations to those thinking of entering the virtual education realm:

- Temper your expectations. “There’s a tremendous wow factor for people just discovering ‘Second Life,’ ” he said. Students need some time to adjust and learn how to move and operate in that world.

- “Understand what your expectations are,” Cillay said. Rather than expect huge gains in a classroom environment, consider it a first step in educational experimentation.

- Give yourself and the students time to explore. “Do some research ahead of time, so you know the environment and find out what other educators are doing there,” said Cillay.


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