Over the last few weeks, some of the members of our class have been exploring Second Life (SL) as a learning and teaching environment. This was the first experience of a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) for several of our class, including myself.
One of the most useful features for new students is the ‘teleport’ function, not only as a way to move to a completely new location, but also as an aid the teacher is able to extend to students who are having trouble ‘keeping up’ as the group moves within one location and its landmarks.
(Stanford's SL Archive Collection):
There are two compelling features of SL. One is the element of play inherent to the environment, which can free the user from the fear of making mistakes (everyone is finding their way), and from timidity (users can style an avatar to present a ‘confident’ persona), and which encourages cognitive processes which encourage ‘learning by doing’ – the user is placed in a mental space of discovery and experimentation which is quite powerful, that is ‘experiential learning’ (Gregory et al, 2011, p. 484).
(visit Vassar's Virtual Sistine Chapel )
The other is the reason SL exists: to nurture communities. As a learning tool for distance education (DE) students, SL is invaluable in that it brings members of the class together with the educator and each other to interact in a social space. Even a five-minute chat with a fellow student before an SL class, or the chance to ask a question of the teacher directly, greatly enhance the DE experience.
Some ways information services are able to utilise SL to support learning and collaboration goals are:
providing links ‘in-world’ to library services, such as the CSU-SIS Learning Centre’s links to the library’s live chat service, or to Stanford University Library’s links to actual research documents in the Stanford archives;
also - “tutorials”, “lectures”, “tours”, information literacy assessment, and visually stimulating ways in to library resources (Gregory et al, 2011, p. 484);
and for staff – “meetings”, “conferences” and “scenario-based training” (Gregory et al, 2011, p. 484).
The main concerns around SL for educational institutions are lack of funding, bandwidth and security issues, as well as difficulties with accessibility (Gregory et al, 2011, p. 484). Probably the greatest challenge is the SL learning curve. However, whether it is in Second Life or something like it in the future, understanding the virtual learning space is an essential part of the social networking librarian’s education.
Gregory, B., Gregory, S., Wood, D., Masters, Y., Hillier, M., Stokes-Thompson, F., Bogdanovych, A., Butler, D., Hay, L., Jegathesan, J.J., Flintoff, K., Schutt, S., Linegar, D., Alderton, R., Cram, A., Stupans, I., McKeown Orwin, L., Meredith, G., McCormick, D., Collins, F., Grenfell, J., Zagami, J., Ellis, A., Jacka, L., Campbell, J., Larson, I., Fluck, A., Thomas, A., Farley, H., Muldoon, N., Abbas, A., Sinnappan, S., Neville, K., Burnett, I., Aitken, A., Simoff , S., Scutter, S., Wang, X., Souter, K., Ellis, D., Salomon, M.,Wadley, G., Jacobson, M., Newstead, A., Hayes, G., Grant, S. & Yusupova, A. (2011). How are Australian higher education institutions contributing to change through innovative teaching and learning in virtual worlds? In G. Williams, P. Statham, N. Brown, & B. Cleland (Eds.), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings ascilite Hobart 2011. (pp. 475-490).