To depart from the Second Life discussion - and probably prove to everyone how crazy my mind can work - here is a quote from an article I just found, which embraces the core discussion of virtual learning (Lowes, 2008).
It is these transformations—of the teacher and of the course—and the two-way
interactions, or flow, between face-to-face teaching and online teaching, that are the
focus of this study. Much as immigrants leave the cultural comfort of their home
societies and move to places with very different cultures and social practices, those who teach online leave the familiarity of the face-to-face classroom for the uncharted terrain of the online environment, which has constraints and affordances that lead to very different practices. Face-to-face classrooms are closed environments—a teacher and his/her students together in one room for 50 or so minutes a day—and online classrooms are no different. What is different is that the teacher now moves between the two, transferring ideas, strategies, and practices from one to the other. This“trans-classroom” teacher is a mental, rather than a physical, migrant (Introduction section, paragraph 2).
Describing the virtual experience of online learning is very much akin to being in a new culture. Their are new practices, habits, and langauge functions that are foreign to those familiar in a face to face learning environment.
To demonstrate, think of teaching in an inner city school or a rural school when you have never stepped on a farm or road the subway. What about teaching in a foreign country? Virtual Learning, when thought of as a migration metaphor, is the same as being in a new culture. The advantage to teaching in a virtual world is that all participants are migrants, thus learning how to learn in a virtual environment.
How then can instructional design theory be applied when considering this migration metaphor?
Lowes, S. (2008). Online teaching and classroom change: The trans-classroom teacher in the age of the internet. Innovate 4 (3). Retrieved September 6, 2008 from http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=446