Using Second Life in an English Course: How does the Technology Affect Participation?

Using Second Life in an English Course: How does the Technology Affect Participation?

Airong Wang (Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2017010105
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This paper examines how technology affects participation in an English course in Second Life. Second Life-specific affordances, i.e. voice-morphing and sound isolated parcels, were used in this course. The data set consists of approximately 33 hours of audio recordings and chat logs of 8315 words. In audio, 10.8% of the course time deals with technological challenges, while in chat, 69.2% of the words concern technology. The types of technological challenges interfering with participation involve software complexity, unreliable functionality of SL, as well as hardware and connectivity issues. To deal with these problems, participants were assisted by pedagogical facilitators, technological facilitators, and SL-experienced peers. Based on the analysis of the challenges outlined above, this paper provides recommendations for language practitioners, focusing primarily on the course, participant, and program levels.
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It has been suggested that technology adoption depends on the complexity of a technology set against the perceived advantages the technology may bring (Rogers, 2003; Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003). A technology that is easy to understand and to use is adopted more rapidly than a technology that requires ‘new skills and understandings’ (Rogers, 2003, p. 16). However, a complex technology may be acceptable when its use is associated with many perceived advantages. According to Nielsen’s (1993) model of system acceptability, three attributes concerning the practical acceptability of a system are important, namely: compatibility, reliability, and usability. Compatibility mainly addresses whether a system is compatible with other existing systems, and reliability concerns whether a system is reliable. Usability is decided by how efficient users can use the system, and whether the system is easy to use and to remember so that users make few errors in using it. As these three attributes constitute the basic criteria for evaluating a technology, they will be used to analyze participation in SL in the course under investigation.

In the following sections, the attributes of SL to language education, and the technical complexity and requirements of SL are presented.

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