Learning and Teaching in Second Life: Educator and Student Perspectives

Learning and Teaching in Second Life: Educator and Student Perspectives

Sue Gregory (University of New England, Australia), Julie Willems (Monash University, Australia), Denise Wood (University of South Australia, Australia), Lyn Hay (Charles Sturt University, Australia), Allan H. Ellis (Southern Cross University, Australia) and Lisa Jacka (Southern Cross University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4205-8.ch016
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Abstract

Formal off-campus flexible learning has been a feature of higher education since the 19th century. The introduction of various educational technologies over the years has provided additional opportunities for learners to undertake courses offered anytime and in any location, providing greater flexibility for the development of cost-effective learner-centred curricula. With the emergence of 3D virtual worlds such as Second Life in 2003, educators are quick to realise the potential of such immersive environments to extend the flexible learner-centred approaches that have been a feature of off-campus learning over the decades. However, the benefits of technology-enhanced learning can be contradictory and incompatible and can both widen and reduce access to education. Despite the proliferation of articles attesting to the benefits of teaching in virtual worlds such as Second Life, until relatively recently, there has been a lack of empirical evidence reporting on the learning outcomes for students participating in these virtual learning sessions. Good pedagogical practices must be taken into consideration when educating in a virtual world. The case studies presented in this chapter aim to go some way in addressing this perceived gap in the literature. In this chapter, six authors from five Australian Universities provide their accounts of teaching in a virtual world and report on the learning outcomes as well as their students’ perceptions of their learning experiences.
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What Is Second Life

Several features of social software referred to by Obasanjo (2004) are found in virtual world environments such as Second Life (Wood, 2010). For example, communication takes place via the user’s avatar (which could be a human, animal or fantasy character) (Gregory & Smith, 2010) using either ‘Chat’ or ‘instant messaging (IM). IMs can be stored for retrieval if the resident is not online (thus supporting both synchronous and asynchronous communication) and the IM can also be sent to the resident’s nominated email account.

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