Communication and Education in a Virtual World: Avatar-Mediated Teaching and Learning in Second Life

Communication and Education in a Virtual World: Avatar-Mediated Teaching and Learning in Second Life

Lorri Mon
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2010040101
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Education within Second Life frequently recapitulates the “sage on the stage” as students sit their avatars down in chairs in the virtual world and listen to or read an instructor’s lecture while watching a slideshow. This conceptual article explores alternative active learning techniques supporting independent and collaborative learning within virtual worlds. Within Second Life, educators can utilize a variety of scripted tools and objects as well as techniques of building and terra-forming to create vibrant virtual personal learning environments and learning experiences that are engaging and responsive to individual learners. Issues of embodiment in an avatar are discussed in terms of social presence, and student learning styles are considered as well as approaches to problem-based learning, games, role play, and immersive virtual world environments.
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Teaching In Virtual Worlds

A long tradition of educational research exists within virtual worlds. In 2003, Delwiche (2006) taught ethnographic research to undergraduate students who formed “the Halfling Ethnographers Guild” within the virtual world of Everquest (, fourth graders completed quests to analyze environmental science problems. (Barab et al., 2007) In Active Worlds, Cornell University taught science to high school students, while the University of Colorado-Boulder taught a business accounting course (Damer, 2008; Corbit, 2002). In Second Life, courses ranged from English Composition at Ball State University to law at Harvard Law School, genetics at Texas Wesleyan University, sociology and criminology at Coventry University, computer science at Ohio University, and astrobiology at the University of Arizona (Grove & Steventon, 2008; Gollub, 2007; Ye, Liu, & Polack-Wahl, 2007; Boulous, Heatherington, & Wheeler, 2007).

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