Virtual Worlds for Learning

Virtual-Learning Landscape by Brian Shuster in Today’s Campus

This is a great article about the use of virtual worlds that students can explore, alone or together, as part of the learning process.  The idea is that historical times and places can be recreated on the computer.  Students, through their avatars (computer character representing the student), can roam the computerized landscape as they choose.  The virtual world can give students a real flavor for what it was like to be in that time and place – a virtual trip through history.  It makes it easier to imagine what it might have been like for the people of the time or how that landscape might have influenced a specific historical character.  Perhaps they can relive a famous event, like the eruption of Vesuvius, a battle in WWI or see the Gettysburg Address from the cheap seats.  Virtual worlds are another tool in the educational toolbox to make learning fun or to reach students that they might not otherwise reach.  I always thought the use of Second Life was interesting for holding class meetings, but I thought it limited.  How interesting will things be when it is common for an instructor to say, “I’ll see you next week at the Cotton Club in 1920’s Harlem for our next lesson.”

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4 thoughts on “Virtual Worlds for Learning

  1. Great reference to Second Life. I came across it this week when I was writing our essay on DE schools in developed and developing countries. I saw the Open University uses Second Life. I wonder what it would be like to “meet” up with our classmates there. Do you think it is an authentic enough environment for higher education or do you think it is more advantageous for imaginative learning/less formal than the traditional or DE classroom?

    • Thanks for the comment. I heard about Second Life a couple years ago. I also heard then that some professors were incorporating it in their classes. Part of the benefit was that it was supposed to increase social presence and give some social cues that many miss in the F2F environment. I liked the idea but thought it was kind of limited. I love this new initiative to create a Second Life like experience but in an accurate recreation of an historical time and place. It takes the idea to the next level and I can see it being very useful. I hope there is a market for it to continue. It sounds like a lot of fun.

    • My comments are focused more on the promise of the idea of using virtual worlds in the educational landscape. I have less concern about promoting any specific corporate agenda.

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