I was keen to explore the potential of Second Life (SL) and was intrigued about the possibilities of using a virtual world in an educational setting, particularly after reading that “immersion in a digital environment can enhance education in at least three ways: by enabling multiple perspectives, situated learning, and transfer” (Dede, 2009, p. 66) and that it “may have the potential to release trapped intelligence and engagement in many learners” (Dede, 2009, p. 67).
I have had a little experience moving in a virtual environment (VE) through playing World of Warcraft (WOW), so expected to feel more comfortable in SL initially than I was. I was quite confused by the navigation and would have appreciated a more explicit tutorial. I found it easy to move but became quite confused trying to negotiate the maps and teleport. In fact, I gave up in frustration when I could not work out how to teleport to CSU’s School of Information Studies during that visit. My confusion confirms the suggestion that one negative aspect of SL is the length of time it takes to acclimatise to the VE (Helmer, 2007, p. 24). In contrast, I found it much more satisfying to be part of the tour run by “LenaLotus Latte” (Lyn Hay) of the CSU SIS. Having an experienced user introduce certain features (such as ‘touching’ and ‘picking up’ objects as well as teleporting) helped a great deal to feel more settled within the VE.
One way to counter this feeling of ‘noob’ confusion could be to set a specific quest or task to be completed as part of the initial experience of SL, much like the beginning quests of WOW and other online games, which serve to both introduce the user to the ‘world’ as well as teaching special features.
A major benefit of my limited experience of SL was the opportunity to ‘meet’ some of the other INF506 students and talk with them ‘face-to-face’. Other students studying by distance education could also benefit from this more personal contact. The chance to voice chat and interacting virtually was of particular benefit and could similarly be used during transactions between librarians and remote clients.
I currently teach TAFE students, many of who are at risk of completely disengaging from learning and education. I now believe that these students could become more engaged with their learning through immersion in a VE such as SL. Unfortunately the web filters of the NSW DET make this difficult. My introduction to SL has piqued my interest in facilitating learning and information provisions teaching using a VE and as a result I am now investigating the feasibility of using ‘Quest Atlantis’ and other VEs to stimulate interest and engagement in my students.
Dede, C. (2009). Immersive Interfaces for Engagement and Learning. Science, 323(2 January 2009), 66-69.
John Helmer, & Light, L. (2007). Second Life and Virtual Worlds: Learning Light.