Thursday, September 11, 2008

What does Second Life have to offer?

Greetings from Second Life's
EdTECH island!

In this posting I will focus on Second Life from an educators perspective and list some advantages and disadvatages of this enormous multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) application.

As I dive into the academic research on MUVEs and specifically Second Life, a whole world (virtually and literally) begins to reveal itself. In essence, as with considering learning technology, research on MUVEs is describing learning from a constructivist perspective with students being "co-creators of their own learning environments" (Evans, Mulvihill & Brooks, 2008).

However, as instructional designers, we need to as focus on the prescriptive aspects of developing a pedagogy, which focuses on how to best foster the construction of knowledge. Doolittle (1999) pinpoints some excellent assumptions and recommendations, which have somewhat guided my advantage/disadvantage list.

Advantages of Second Life
  • the application is synchronous with virtual face to face communication
  • communicating with others in a learning situation fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie as virtual immigrants
  • the MUVEs bring a human quality of images (bodies, faces, buildings) unlike text based learning environments such as Blackboard
  • the learning environment of MUVEs are best used in learner centered curriculum
Disadvantages of Second Life
  • difficult to navigate
  • the program requires familiarity with navigation, so a Second Life 101 type class would be needed for new users before focusing on other content
  • the Second Life teacher should be a pro user and strictly organize lessons - teachers really need to rethink their strategies when using the program (does constructivism always explain learning then?)
  • Second Life on the surface is economically focused with many people selling services or objects in $L (which are traded for real US$)
  • the economic focus and shear size of the Second Life virtual world is overwhelming - you have to know what you are looking for
Despite my reservations, I feel that Second Life as a learning environment is going to be the wave of the future. The technology is still so new, however as educators, we should at least start to become familiar with this MUVE, as a precursor for what's yet to come.

Doolittle, P. E. (1999). Constructivism and online education. Virgina Polytechnic Institute & State University. Retrieved September 8, 2008 from

Evans, N., Mulvihill, T., Brooks, N. (2008). Mediating the tensions of online learning in Second Life. Innovate 4 (6). Retrieved September 11 from


Patrick Luo said...

Hey, Kevin, greeting from Patrick. I've also read some research papers regarding education via Second Life. One biggest problem is that we, as teachers ,shouldn't ignore those potential harm a student might face while navigate on the virtual world. Just like the real world, there are abundant verbal abuse, harrasment going on in SL. Worsestill, some sex predators and even paedophiles might lurk in the corner of SL. Ethically, each teacher should really think twice before introducing such a complicated world to his/her students. (I guess I just watched too much "Law and order, SVU" :-)

hihiyan said...

Some of the barries that SL in education, I think
1.need high hardware to access. My computer art not powerful enough to play SL.

2. We don't know who the teacher really is.
Solutions: form a credible insititute. Like DELL, which is the official Virtual world for DELL. The institude could have censorship to teachers whether he/she is qualified.

3. There's no evaluation for the effect of learning.
Is there any solttions???

4. Cite Patrick: "each teacher should really think twice before introducing such a complicated world to his/her students."

In actual world, parents and teachers can prevent children from affects by adverse learning environment. However, Second life is a complex world. There's little protect for children...It seems necessary to prevent students joinning in bad "communities".

PS: SL seems has no law. I read a journal written that if A kills B in SL world. What judical procedure should A take??? To "Put" him in jail. block his/her account, or....???