Second Life and E-Learning

Second Life is a virtual 3D community created in 2003. When the user becomes a member, he/she becomes a new resident and is given a new identity by using a name and a virtual avatar to represent himself in this virtual community.

Second Life’s virtual world also includes sound/visual environments such as wind and rain, audible conversations, built-in chats and instant messaging. Residents buy property, start businesses, game with other residents, create objects, join clubs, attend classes, or just hang out.

Second Life can also be used as a platform for an e-learning environment. The good thing about Second Life is that, unlike most of the other e-Learning environments, it brings the student into conditions which are very close to real-life situations. It is well suited for direct interaction and working in a specific virtual environment. All of this can be done by programming the avatar to act like a real person and interact with other avatars (other members). This is a good example of immersion into worlds which can extend someone’s perception of reality, and project it into this virtual reality.

The video below shows some examples of how Second Life can be used to provide training simulations. You can find other useful links within the same page.

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14 thoughts on “Second Life and E-Learning

  1. >All of this is very interesting. Through second life we are almost creating a virtual world in which daily activities are conducted over the net. Some people though get so much into these activities that their true life becomes something of the past, spending their time entirely on the PC.So while this enviornment provides an innovative way of interaction, and even of learning, the human feelings, emotion and actual presence do not fit in.The following article, from TIME, sheds some interesting light on the effect of Virtual life on True life. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1739601,00.html

  2. >As already stated, the setting and context is brilliant in terms of learning difficult tasks that in real life are dangerous (such as learning how to fly a plane, operation in hospitals, etc). Skills such as teamwork, listening and reading skills, and problem solving skills are encouraged in such a context. But still, this e-learning context is simply a 'role-play' device through which learners can get to know about the situation but did not actually live in it for real. What about risks that real-life has to offer? Such as an improbable complication during an operation or during a real-life flight?I think that the world offers so many unexpected risks that only by living them for real can one learn from mistakes. However I still think that virtual realities have a lot of advantages that they can offer – but they can never substitute real life.

  3. >One can understand the benefits reaped from virtual world but I have to agree with John’s comment. Through this way of interaction, what are the expenses of becoming so immersed in such a virtual life?In an article found on guardian.co.uk, the author, Colin Horgan, states the following:'What we are communicating, in fact, is a mirror of ourselves in a highly pixelated form, existing simultaneously only so far away as a finger length and yet nowhere at all. It is a shallow relationship. Through the glass screen of web interaction, we are in danger of becoming simply the same surface-level information that we are now programmed to gather.’The article speaks about the effects of using iPad and iPhone, making ‘the way we interact increasingly shallow’. Are these the effects of most of modern technology which we all rely so much upon?References:Horgan, C. (2010, June 16). iPad therefore I am. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from guardian.co.uk: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jun/14/internet-ipad-iphone

  4. >This blog is very interesting. Being able to interact in a similar way that you do in your real life might seem appealing, especially considering that this is done through an internet persona, which masks your own identity.I believe that some might even go to the extent, as it has already been mentioned in this blog, that they start preferring interacting in this virtual way rather than in reality. This is very unhealthy, because real-life interactions need to be there…at work..when you shop..friends…etc..An interesting article can be found under the title of Second Life' presents societal dangers"http://media.www.reflector-online.com/media/storage/paper938/news/2007/11/06/Opinion/second.Life.Presents.Societal.Dangers-3079650.shtml

  5. >I agree with Eleonora that there is no better learning environment than a real-life situation. There are instances when even real-life training does not provide adequate scenarios for all possible problems that might arise, let alone a virtual context.However one cannot but agree that such systems offer excellent training as regards developing problem-solving skills. I think that the effectiveness of these systems can be maximised when used in conjunction with training effected in real-life environments.

  6. >I also agree with Eleonora with regards to unpredictable situations which can only be experienced in real life. Second Life is great for educational purposes and even for creative individuals. The following piece from wikipedia explains better how artists can exploit their talents on Second Life:"Second Life has created an environment where artists can display their works to an audience across the world. This has created an entire artistic culture on its own where many residents who buy or build homes can shop for artwork to place there. Gallery openings even allow art patrons to "meet" and socialize with the artist responsible for the artwork and has even led to many real life sales. Numerous art gallery sims abound in second life. Most notable of these is the art gallery sim "Cetus", which has been in continuous operation since 2006 as a planned, mix-use art community of galleries, offices and loft apartments for residents. Created by avatar Xander Ruttan, creator of cozy cottage dog house, it has resulted in many collaborative efforts amongst artists, designers and builders from across the world."Still I see the whole sitting at the computer as a bit boring and kind of sad compared to experiencing actual human interaction. However, everything seems to be moving away from human interaction and more towards communicating with a screen. Check out the new XBOX Kinect:http://www.xbox.com:80/en-US/kinect/Where the game can now detect the motion of the payers rather than them having to use a controller. The advert shows the whole family having fun inside playing sports with the XBOX Kinect, as opposed to actually playing real sports outside. Isn't it nice to go outside once in a while?

  7. >I completely agree with Eleonora Doreen and Moira. On the other hand I also acknowledge the benefits that 'second life', presents – such as: in some cases of learning difficulties; as well as in cases of individuals with special needs. I think that when it comes to people/students who are unimpaired of any physical disability, real life situations should encouraged wherever possible. However I also believe that second life can give numerous opportunities to physically impaired individuals who would otherwise not benefit from the same adventure/opportunities due to the varying number of restrictions. Similarly in learning I think that wherever possible we should make use of real life situations to teach parallelisms of future situations using a semi-fictitious environment as well as monitored real life situations – such are/were the apprenticeship schemes, interimships and 'botteghe' (master student workshops) in the case of art. One can take the argument to any social activity, for instance the church will allow the sick to follow mass on TV however it will expect others to attend mass. Or similarly, playing a game of say Assassins with friends (whom you have no idea what they look like and live on the other side of the globe) is good fun, however I bet it is much more fun to participate in a 'paintball' session simulating a fictitious environment. Some might take this as a career and join the armed forces or navy. Also I am a little skeptical when it comes to assessing the extent of how much one should 'dream' of altering one's life.On the other hand is it safer to create an avatar, or go under the real life surgical knife?!This discussion reminds me of the film Vanilla Sky, released in 2001, the trailer can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHtF8PADoN0It is worth watching for those who have not seen it, it is also one of many films on the subject of virtual reality.Having said all this I think that in the same manner that books and documentaries have not made the classroom or the teacher redundant; e-learning and 'second life' will probably only be the option of the few rather than the norm.

  8. >Whilst I tend to agree that it is very difficult for a simulation to replace the real life scenario, I wish to point out that current technology is paving the way for future innovations that will be greatly different than what we see today. We must not limit ourselves to thinking that online learning will be limited to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, headset and webcam. Take a look at the following technology:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMiQx4Mhh_U&feature=relatedI believe that the computer environment will one day stimulate our other senses thus improving greatly the online experience. Surrogates, The Matrix and other similar movies demonstrate some possible future technology which could become a reality.

  9. >True that technology is leading that way, but… is'nt this leading to having people who instead of leading active lives and using their brain to thnk and be creative, are using their brain to manouvre a mechanism? Individuals' cognitive ability will probably reach high levels yes, but what about psychomotor skills???

  10. >What scares me is that such technology is alienating today's youths from the benefits physical activity. Today, more than ever doctors are stressing the importance of incorporating daily physical activity in our lives.Incidentally technology is not helping in this regard and it is most often rightly associated with sedentary lifestyles. If like most of you said above, subscribers of such virtual worlds spend too much time online, their only daily physical activity would be their fingers beating the keyboard keys.

  11. >I found this very interesting as you all said. Second life may be relevant to many areas but as John put it very well, where is the place of emotion, feeling and presence? I just checked out several youtubes of Second life (and in the meantime found some excellent lectures, very useful for my subject areas) and I got the feeling of being alienated from the real world. As educators we prepare students for life, but what life? Can you say that just because you were able to drive a virtual car or aeroplane, that you can do it in real life? In a virtual life I am sure we could all say assemble a car, but can everyone do it in real life? I doubt it very much. Even seemingly simple actions such as connecting a nut and bolt can be impossible for some and under certain circumstances ( highly stressful situations) even the experts can find it very difficult. We have all observed experts at their trade or work performing a task and said “how simple it seems” and it is so because by performing that action repeatedly and each time improving from novice s/he transforms to expert – surface versus deep learning, low versus high level knowledge, skills and competences.

  12. >One of my concerns with Second Life is the need/availability to change yourself into an avatar of your choice. I think that giving too much importance to Second Life might lead to psychological and social problems. In Second Life several attractive things are possible. But is this what happens in real life? Wouldn't it be demotivating if we were to achieve successful things just on Second Life? Isn't it much better to concentrate on our real life and seek ways on how to improve that?

  13. >I agree with most of you stating that by learning through such technologies we risk to become immersed in a virtual technological world, deviating us from the beauty of the real world.Having said that, Second Life involves an extremely beneficial learning environment for individuals with varying special needs, since it can prove to be much more accessible than on-campus environment, as researched by the Virtual Ability community of Second Life.Official homepage of Virtual Ability: http://virtualability.org

  14. >As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not a fan of Second Life, X-Villes and the like. However, I have been seriously considering the potential that Second Life has in “teaching” Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial skills can only be taught in a classroom to a very limited extent. In fact, there's nothing better than hands-on experience or direct experience in the real business world. However, frequently this option is not available for several reasons including lack of funding. One alternative would be to start new business ventures on Second Life. Like the real world, Second Life is also characterised by many SMBs ranging from tattooists to real estate speculators, from custom avatar designers to XML coders. Recently I have come across several scholarly articles that promote Second Life as a methodology to teach Entrepreneurship. Even if the virtual business fails, Second Life allows real business partners with different interests to meet. Furthermore, Linden also has a policy on intellectual property to protect new ideas that are created on Second Life.Similarly, there is software that simulates the real stock exchange. Teaching students about stocks and shares is never easy as the stock market is a very complex world. However, websites such as http://vse.marketwatch.com allow students to merge themselves into this world without risking a cent. Some students become totally absorbed by this simulation and while not all of them might take the risk to invest in the real stock exchange, at least if they decide to do so, they will have the necessary grounding of this fast-paced and complicated world.

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