Beginning around 2005 Colleges and Universities around the country became increasingly interested in the learning opportunities offered by the 3d Virtual World Second Life. Colleges and Universities around the country from Texas State Technical College which developed an online associate’s degree program, to Ivy’s like Harvard, flocked to Second Life to develop virtual campuses and classrooms. At the University of the District of Columbia, the Administration of Justice program created a Second Life Virtual World to simulate investigation scenes.
Educators would say that: “.. Second Life is an effective teaching tool in part because it provides a social laboratory where role-playing, simulations, exploration, and experimentation can be tried out in a relatively risk-free environment. But perhaps the most touted benefit of Second Life is the opportunity it gives students to interact with people around the world (Graves, 2008).”
In spite of this explosion in interest, use of Second Life seems to have peaked in 2007 and has been in declining since. There seems to be much speculation about why this is the case, but a couple of theories discussed in a chronicle article find that:
1. Some found it cumbersome to navigate the landscape.
2. Some found that paying for and designing an immersive 3d landscape was time consuming, complicated and expensive.
3. Lastly, because Second Life is open to anyone, university landscapes were sometimes vulnerable to “griefing,” a cyber-term that refers to vandalism of virtual spaces.
Educators and learners who enjoy virtual environments may now find other alternatives that speak meaningfully to the idea of being able to easily access a user friendly, 3d, virtual, immersive landscape devoted to higher learning. A new platform focused specifically on education and learning has been developed, it is called vAcademia (i.e. Virtual Academia). This new resource allows one to hold ongoing classes, meetings or live lectures or give presentations in a virtual space. Any classes held in vAcademia can be held in real time, or simultaneously recorded and made available to students at a later point.
This concept means that the learning experience for students can be extended and enriched through their engagement with a wide variety of learning modules. vAcademia classrooms are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. vAcademia is also a great collaboration resource. In fact, you can read more here about innovative ways academics have found to use vAcademia for collaborative learning in a 3-d virtual environment.
Will vAcademia replace “Second Life”? That remains to be seen, but as a resource gaining interest among faculty looking for immersive, 3d virtual alternatives for online learning, it may be worth a look. To learn more about vAcademia go to http://vacademia.com/.
Graves, Lucia (2008). A Second Life for Higher Ed: A virtual world offers new opportunities for teaching. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2008/01/10/a-second-life-for-higher-ed.