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.”