NYT : Second Life Is For Learning

Thursday, January 11, 2007

…Scores of colleges and universities have set up campuses on Second Life islands, where classes meet and students interact in real time.  They can hold chat discussions and create multimedia presentations from virtual building blocks called prims…..Instructors say the Second Life class experience is particularly enhanced for distance learners.  In Second Life, classmates and instructor don’t just communicate in chat rooms; they can actually see one another — or, at least, digital alter egos — on screen.  Bill Moseley, whose distance-learning course for Pepperdine University meets roughly every two weeks in Second Life, found an unexpected benefit: within the program’s lifelike graphic environment, his students had “a community online and the feeling of being together.”  Nearly any time he logs on, he finds one or two tinkering with their project or exploring another area of the grid.  For fun one day after class, everyone took a student’s new virtual dune buggy for a spin around Malibu Island (Pepperdine is in California, after all).  Rebecca Nesson, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science, brought her class at Harvard Extension School to Second Life last semester.  “Normally, no matter how good a distance-learning class is, an inherent distance does still exist between you and your students,” she says.  “Second Life has really bridged that gap.  There is just more unofficial time that we spend together outside of the typical class session.” 

Linden Lab, the company that created and runs Second Life, has sold more than 100 islands for educational purposes, at about $1,000 each plus $150 monthly maintenance.  Owners of islands have more sophisticated controls over the virtual experience, including the ability to make their land public or private (invisible to others).  Since N.Y.U.’s media studies class was one of the school’s first forays into Second Life, the class, which is offered within the Paul McGhee Division for adult education, took up residence on an island called simply Campus: Second Life.  Linden donates a free acre for the duration of a class so a college can experiment before investing in an island.  Second Life’s education community is growing: subscribers to its education listserve number more than 1,000; at least three islands run by library groups are open to the public; and universities are collaborating by lending space on their own islands or sharing ideas.  Graduate students doing research or teaching in Second Life have formed a mobile colony that holds discussions with experts in subjects like online ethics or aesthetics…..Second Life isn’t conducive to traditional lecturing, since streaming real-time audio is difficult.  So class on the grid is less professor-centered, because of the free-for-all nature of real-time chat.  “I prefer classes to be discussions, and that’s a necessity in Second Life,” says Ms. Nesson.  “Things pop up in a less linear fashion than they do in a regular classroom.”  Still, even when 10 students chime in, the threads of a discussion are easy to follow, she says.  “But I’ve found that it is important to ask questions that are not entirely open-ended,” she adds, “because that’s when chaos ensues.”

Reference : http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/education/edlife/07innovation.html

One Response to “NYT : Second Life Is For Learning”

  1. danesh Says:

    Reading the article this am… i think we should rope in JBW as well.


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