Education-Oriented Research Activities Conducted in Second Life

Education-Oriented Research Activities Conducted in Second Life

Jiuguang Feng, Liyan Song
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-822-3.ch018
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Second Life (SL) is a multiuser virtual environment (MUVE) that can be used to enhance students’ learning. It is a virtual environment constructed by SL residents, where students can engage in collaborative learning with other SL residents. In the field of education, SL has been used as a professional tool, a synchronous online system, a virtual environment mimicking real life, a platform for role-playing, a communication tool between teachers and students. This chapter focuses on education-oriented research activities conducted in SL. The authors explain and analyze SL usage in higher education, foreign language instruction as well as investigated its contribution to various learning paradigms, and suggested future research directions.
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Various perspectives (e.g., SL as a new economy or an educational tool) have had significant influence on Second Life and residents in Second Life. As educators, our primary concern is about the impact on student learning, and our main interest is to explore what is happening with Second Life in education today and impacts on the future. Different perspectives are interwoven in most of the cases. This chapter attempts to address the following topics: SL in teaching for higher education; SL for foreign language learning; and research on social factors in SL in education. The topics (as shown in Table 1) can help illustrate some major uses and impact of SL in education.

Table 1.
Educational research activities and issues in Second Life
Activities and IssuesIllustrationsOrganizations
SL in higher educationalCampus building, courses and office hoursNMC (New Media Consortium)
Virtual campus of universities
SL for foreign languageFormal and informal learning experienceEnglish Village
Chinese and Spanish in SL
Social factorsStudents’ social exploration and
Second Life Bar Association
Second Life Liberation Army

Higher education is moving toward student-centered learning environments and this movement has provoked a series of reforms, service learning, learning communities, collaborative learning, and technology enhanced classroom (Daynes, Esplin, & Kristensen, 2004). Second Life (SL), a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE), where university students and instructors can meet and collaborate to work on course projects and exchange course related information, seems to fit in the general trend of the development of higher education. SL and a few other online virtual worlds have been identified as ‘emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within higher education’ (Johnson, Lavine & Smith, 2007). Apparently, SL has had impact on teaching and learning in higher education institutions and the impact is very likely to increase in the near future.

One of the subjects that have been taught in SL is foreign languages, though it is still at its early stage of development. Learning foreign languages in SL has already generated great interest from students, teachers and education consultants. SL residents can study and practice foreign languages in both a formal and informal way. Some of those classes are structured lessons. Other activities are more informal where the residents can meet other residents from all over the world.

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