Second Life: A Novice/Expert Teaching and Learning Tale

Second Life: A Novice/Expert Teaching and Learning Tale

Yvonne Masters (University of New England, Australia) and Sue Gregory (University of New England, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4205-8.ch015
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Abstract

An increasing number of educational institutions are trialling the use of virtual worlds as teaching and learning environments, particularly for distance education students. In 2009 the authors have begun a research project to explore the efficacy of one such virtual world, Second Life, as a viable adjunct to other online learning experiences. However, it is now recognised that most academics have no experience of teaching in a virtual world. An integral aspect of our research is to examine whether a novice user of Second Life could quickly learn to teach effectively with this tool. The teaching experience is outlined from two points of view: the novice and the expert. The emergent themes are discussed and conclusions are made regarding the efficacy of Second Life as a teaching and learning environment for distance education students and the level of support that might be needed to assist other novices to teach in-world.
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Background

Sue subscribed to Second Life, created a virtual environment, Education Online, and began teaching in Second Life in 2008. She gave several presentations about her journey to interested parties (Gregory, 2008; Gregory & Smith, 2009; Gregory & Smith, 2010; Gregory, Reiners, & Tynan, 2010). Yvonne heard the story and created her own presence in Second Life in 2009. An avatar is someone’s virtual 3D persona which can be in any form desired (Gregory & Smith, 2009). Jass and Tamsyn (see Figure 1) are always known as such when teaching in Second Life. Human forms were chosen for their avatars for professional reasons.

Figure 1.

Jass Easterman and Tamsyn Lexenstar at Australis4Learning (Second Life Classroom and Playground)

In 2009, the authors decided to embark on a project together. Yvonne could see the potential in using an e-learning tool such as Second Life to engage and interact with her distance (off-campus) students. An investigative study was developed to explore whether a virtual world such as Second Life could be used for professional experience (practicum) practice and supervision. While the possibilities seemed exciting, it was realised that there was a need to start small and work up to the end goal, particularly as Yvonne was a novice in the use of Second Life.

After discussing possibilities, the authors felt that the best way to immerse students in their learning in a virtual world was to have the students participate in a role-play activity. To preserve a link with reality and to support information recall, authentic activities, such as role-play and simulations, should occur in authentic learning environments. Virtual worlds can provide simulated learning, modelling a process or interaction that closely resembles real world situations. Authentic learning environments can be created in both digital and physical settings (Ingram & Jackson, 2004; Lombardi, 2007) and virtual worlds, that replicate the real world, have become popular over the past decade (Ferry, et al., 2004).

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