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What’s going on with Virtual Worlds in Education today?

by Kelly Walsh on June 7, 2009


Exploring current uses of Virtual World tools in educational applications

Over the next few weeks I want to catch up with what’s been going on in the fascinating world of “virtual world” tools (like Second Life) and how these tools are being used in educational applications.


Second Life remains the “gold standard” in Virtual World applications, but there are many other VW tools available, and we will consider some of those in our exploration. When I first experimented with Second Life a year or so ago, the laptop I had at the time was pretty old, and it could not support the demands of this resource-intensive environment. This led me to conclude that widespread adoption of this type of tool would lag a bit, as the average computer at the disposal of students and educators gradually catches up to these requirements. I now have a new computer, and will see how the app performs on it, but first I want to research what some of today’s educators are doing with these types of tools.

I found a “SLeducation Wikipages” site, which provided examples of many educational uses of Second Life over the last few years, grouped into over 40 categories [ed note – as of 03/22/10, this site seems to have moved or been removed, so I can no longer provide a link to it]. I borrowed heavily from this resource and compiled the following sampling of applications mentioned there:

  • The New Media Consortium Campus: This is the largest educational presence in Second Life. The NMC Campus supports events, classes, demonstrations, art exhibitions and learning experiences. It was established in 2006 and continues to provide virtual spaces and experiences for educators and artists around the world. This YouTube video provides an overview of the NMC Campus, and some insight into Second Life.
  • Second Life Writing – ENG104 at Ball State University: Sarah Robbins of BSU used Second Life to teach an English class focused on writing for academic research. The course was a hybrid course with at least half of the class time spent online.  This online article discusses the project.
  • Really Engaging Accounting: Robins Hermano uses Second Life to teach a financial accounting course at the University of Central Florida titled “Really Engaging Accounting”. The aim of the project is to engage students in what is normally a very non-engaging course and ensure they develop basic accounting literacy. This Slideshare presentation provides some insight into the project.
  • Thomson Netg Training: In 2006, Thomson Netg offered training in Cisco and Microsoft Certification, business development, and sales and customer service skills via Second Life. The company used Second Life to run live classes, to provide mentorship and to offer on-demand training with individualized media and streamed audio and video presentations or podcasts. Their aim was to use the unique qualities of a shared 3D space to allow students to interact with technology demonstrations and to enact elaborate role plays (the project ended in 2007 when Thomson Netg was acquired by SkillSoft). This brief article discusses the project (unfortunately, the associated video has since been removed from YouTube).
  • Self-paced Learning – Ohio University Campus Learning Kiosks: This kiosk was developed in 2008 as part of a blend of learning resources for students in a “Managing in the Innovation Age” course. Since then several other kiosks have been developed including Ohio University Libraries Orientation and ‘Ask the Techies’ which provides useful IT tips and information. These kiosks are now part of a larger set of features incorporated into Ohio University’s Second Life Campus. View this promotional YouTube video to learn more about Ohio U’s robust SL presence.

These are just a small sampling of the many examples in the above mentioned SLEducation Wiki, and there are so many others that be can found with a quick web search and a little reading. Some of the other education related applications of Second Life that I came across included language labs, holding ‘virtual’ office hours, and leveraging the many virtual resources (like museums, libraries, scientific modeling, virtual tourism, etc.) available in these environments.

Next week I’m going to look into education applications like these on Virtual World applications other than Second Life. After that, I’ll jump into one (or more) of these environments and see if I can get a sense of where things stand today in terms of the resources required to use the tools productively.

As always, don’t hesitate to offer any comments, observations about related experiences, questions, etc. Thanks.


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ioana June 8, 2009 at 11:18 am


Have you seen this new capability that combines live video, free voice communication, free telephone, and 3D real time interaction, a Second Life for business ?



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