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Profs, students immerse in ‘Second Life’

Written by John Preer

 

Second Life technology has been sweeping college campuses around the nation, and VSU has been no exception.

Second Life is a Massive Multiplayer Online video game and 3-D website that allows users to interact in a virtual world. It has become widely used by both instructors and students.

Second Life allows instructors to provide and create activities that would be impossible to do in a regular class room setting.

VSU has been using the Second Life technology for the past three years.

In May of 2010, VSU purchased a virtual island equivalent to 16 acres of land that features replicas of West Hall and faculty offices.  VSU paid for the island in cash, and also pays a monthly maintenance fee.

The professor who initially saw the potential for Second Life to be used in the classroom was Dr. Cindy Tandy.

Dr. Tandy, an associate professor in VSU’s division of Social Work, has been using the extraordinary networking capabilities that Second Life features.  Dr. Tandy first started using the Second Life program about two years prior to VSU purchasing the island.

Dr. Tandy, along with other professors in the foreign language department, has integrated the Second Life program into her classes.  Students can setup free accounts and create personalized avatars to navigate the extensive virtual world.  Dr. Tandy and the other VSU professors give their students assignments that require them to explore the Second Life world and interact with other students and simulations that are spread all throughout the virtual world.

Dr. Tandy expressed her initial enthusiasm for the game after being part of a conversation between educators from various states and countries.  It was then that Dr. Tandy realized the many advantages Second Life had to offer.

“Instructors can do things in Second Life that can’t be accomplished in a brick and mortar classroom,” Dr. Tandy, said.

Dr. Tandy noted that although she is impressed with the amount of students using the program, she would also like to see a surge of faculty involvement.  She argues that the program provides teaching applications and simulations that would not be accessible in a standard classroom setting.

Arguably one of the best features that Second Life boasts, is its insatiable capacity for growth.  Currently VSU only has one island, which is fairly small compared to some universities that have three or four.  If more students and faculty begin to use the program, more virtual land will have to be purchased in order to accommodate the growing population.  New expansions could feature more campus building simulations and activities for visitors to interact with.

Also, there is a student theater art gallery where VSU students can display their artwork.  However, Dr. Tandy feels as if this area could use some more development and submissions from students.  There is an entire building in Second Life for artists to network and expand their scope, but the facility is not experiencing nearly as much interaction that it deserves.

Dr. Tandy mentioned that the more someone plays Second Life, the more useful and personalized it becomes.  She stressed that Second Life was not merely a game, but a virtual experience that should be viewed as an extension of the real world.

The avatars that roam this virtual realm are not fantasized versions of the people that created them, but rather renditions of real people that you can converse with, play games and learn from.”

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