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
- 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
Doolittle, P. E. (1999). Constructivism and online education. Virgina Polytechnic Institute & State University. Retrieved September 8, 2008 from http://edpsychserver.ed.vt.edu/tohe/text/doo2.pdf
Evans, N., Mulvihill, T., Brooks, N. (2008). Mediating the tensions of online learning in Second Life. Innovate 4 (6). Retrieved September 11 from http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=537