More than just Logging In: A Case Study of Learner Engagement and Immersion in Cross-Curricular Events in Second Life

More than just Logging In: A Case Study of Learner Engagement and Immersion in Cross-Curricular Events in Second Life

Kae Novak (Front Range Community College, USA), Chris Luchs (Front Range Community College, USA) and Beth Davies-Stofka (Front Range Community College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2670-6.ch009


This case study chronicles co-curricular activities held in the virtual world Second Life. The event activities included standard content delivery vehicles and those involving movement and presence. Several international content experts were featured and allowed students to meet and discuss ideas on a common ground with these experts. When developing these events, the researchers wondered, could an immersive learning environment be provide a deeper level of engagement? Was it possible to have students do more than just logging in? During the events, the students discovered a whole new way of learning. Chief among their discoveries was the realization that in these virtual world educational events, students, scholars, and faculty can all be mentors as well as learners. In virtual worlds, the expert-on-a-dais model of teaching is rapidly replaced by a matrix of discussion, collaboration, and movement that quickly generates a pool of ideas and knowledge.
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In the fall of 2008, a team of faculty and instructional designers at Front Range Community College hosted events in Second Life designed to expose to students to a wealth of international and offbeat scholarship while teaching them the skills they would need to complete assigned learning activities in Second Life in the spring of 2009. The first event, called The Fine ARRRRRT of Being a Pirate, was scheduled for Saturday, September 20, 2008 (a tie-in to International Talk like a Pirate Day), and attracted roughly 25 participants.

The site was the Front Range Island in Second Life, and the event provided a combination of play-acting and scholarly presentations as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Agenda for the fine arrrrrt of being a pirate

Students learned to navigate and communicate in Second Life by learning how to speak and gesture as pirates. A Renaissance-era Venetian banker dueled with a rogue swordswoman on and above a pirate ship, and all who were assembled attended lectures on an island floating in shark-infested waters. Chris Luchs, accounting faculty, asked the assembly, “Who were pirates?” “Scoundrels!” “Rogues!” “Thieves!” said the assembly. “Did Pirates have accounting?” asked Luchs. “No!” replied the crowd. “Wrong!” said Luchs, appearing as the 16th-century Venetian banker. Luchs proceeded to introduce students to basic accounting principles by outlining the society and culture of a pirate ship, highlighting the need to avoid violence and thwarted self-interest by carefully accounting for every item on the ship. Students also enjoyed a lecture on the feminist women pirates of the 18th and 19th centuries, and another on the real Henry Morgan.

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