What is Second Life?

Second Life is a 3D multi user virtual world available to anyone with a web connection. It is unique in that almost all of the content available within Second Life is user generated. This allows for the generation of many wide reaching and wonderful areas or 'sims' within Second Life.

It is important that we are prepared for the spread of learning in immersive worlds, indeed school children already use virtual environments on occasion within their junior school education and use immersive character based worlds like Club Penguin. For now, we should identify and where necessary develop the best methods for use, evaluation, and assessment, there are considerable challenges such as how best to design activities and experiences for learners. It is necessary therefore that we explore the main benefits from and challenges to using these applications in order to support their most effective use.

Learning through engagement in immersive worlds can lead to exploratory, challenge and problem-based learning experiences, the opportunities for learners to define their learning experiences or pathways, they offer possibilities for practical engagement and social interactions with realistic contexts, to create role plays that facilitate for example different interpretations of events.

How to get started with Second Life?

First you need to create an account as well as an online representation of yourself - an avatar. This avatar is the 'vehicle' through which an individual leads their 'life' in Second Life. Avatars (and the choice of in world name) are an interesting and important representation of the offline individual and subsequently the way they wish to be perceived.

Once in world the new user will find themselves upon Orientation Island. This area is a tutorial section designed to help the new user find their feet (and voice) within Second Life. Take some time to wander around orientation island and to absorb the knowledge and tips contained there (Once you leave this island it is not possible to return).

Upon leaving Orientation island you are free to explore the vast user generated and exciting world of Second Life. Within this multi user virtual world you will find street vendors, shops, museums, art galleries, night clubs, offices of many highly established real world companies and over 150 academic and educational establishments.

Second Life is currently being used as a massive educational tool, allowing students all over the world to experience and learn within environments un-reachable within the real world. Examples include: 1900's Paris, Le Louvre, The Pyramids, medieval villages, Darfur and the Sudan, Space museums, and even a Dinosaur park. The opportunities for new experiences within Second Life are massive and so is the opportunity to learn.

Current Areas and Ideas under development on our SL island

  • The Middlesex University Second Life island is now available and is open to the public. When visitors arrive on the island, they can learn more about the University in general (reading information boards, freebies, games..etc.).
  • General seminar and lecture rooms are also available on the island where virtual sessions and conferences can be conducted. Although Second Life is a perfect arena to host problem-based and experiential learning scenarios, there might be a need for more formal learning spaces that can be used for structured seminars on lectures to aid distance learners. If you'd like to book one of the lecture or seminar rooms in Second Life, please contact David at d.westwood@mdx.ac.uk.
  • The Centre for Educational Technology has an educational resource centre where visitors can lounge on sofas, have a chat and find teleport links to many interesting educational resources in Second Life.
  • Alan Page and colleagues are working on a "make believe" local area which have "issues" to deal with, including social, health, economic, educational, transport and housing. The project will expand to include many other subjects using this virtual town including, criminology, housing, health and safety, risk management, environment, the new built environment area, business, primary care.
  • George Dafoulas and his PhD student Noha Magdy in EIS are working on project related in SL. Learn more about the project on the Distributed and Collaborative Technologies Lab pages.
  • Researching the student experience in virtual worlds

For more information, please read the virtual world watch snapshot available at http://virtualworldwatch.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Snapshot-8.pdf