April 9, 2016

Virtual Worlds and Education - Six Years Later

I started using Second Life in 2010, while studying for my Postgraduate Diploma in Education (specializing in e-Learning Pedagogy). Since then, I've explored many other Virtual Worlds/Grids, like Kitely, InWorldz, other public and private OpenSim grids, as well as Sim-on-a-Stick (SoaS), and even the very promising (now apparently very dead) virtual-world-on-a-browser Cloud Party. Recently, I had the opportunity to share my views on the potencial of Second Life and other VW for education/training with educators who have never used any of these platforms.

Image via Second Life Wiki

Second Life and other Virtual Worlds are platforms where creativity and collaboration can be easily stimulated, while providing users with a very strong sense of co-presence [aka social presence] and immersion.

Also interesting is the fact that on SL and other VW users can perform tasks that would be very dangerous or even impossible in the physical world (e.g. exploding structures; flying as birds do; walking on the bottom of the ocean without any sort of breathing apparatus).

Another useful VW feature is the ability to build, at very low cost, structures and environments that would represent a huge financial investment in the “brick and mortar” world (e.g. recreating a medieval village for a class about that period in History; creating an immersive alien landscape for a class about a Sci-Fi book). 

The avatar itself can be turned into a powerful learning tool (Yee and Bailenson, 2006).

All of these aspects make virtual worlds particularly interesting for educational purposes.

Because I have a special interest in adult education, I’d like to share this video with you: it’s one of my favorite episodes of The Drax Files: World Makers. In many ways, this inspiring story summarizes with accuracy what I think about using Second Life and other Virtual Worlds for adult education. Hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

P.S. - Text and link to video originally posted on the SL MOOC 2016 Moodle website.

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