Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
Virtual worlds are online spaces where many people can interact through text, voice, or other means; many are 3D environments that allow users to move through them as if navigating a physical space. Virtual worlds are well established as social and educational spaces; hundreds of institutions have a virtual presence in a 3D interactive space. Improvements in the underlying technology supporting virtual worlds are now leading to increasingly realistic environments, cross-platform connections, and even more ways to access and interact with virtual spaces.
In addition to increasing the capability of distance learning and facilitating global interaction, virtual worlds allow educators to provide a full immersion experience for their students. Unlike a teleconference, where all media travels through a single pipe, avatars in a virtual world have the ability to hold parallel conversations. Students can interact with one another, ask questions, and schedule a virtual office visit with the professor. Instructors, in a classroom of their design, are able to post information, offer note cards that can be saved as word documents, share a PowerPoint presentation, or host a visiting lecturer from across the globe. Virtual worlds that allow residents to create objects serve as collaborative spaces for design and study, where students can create models of real-world objects or places; mock up new designs of anything that can be built; examine models of systems too large or too small to see without specialized equipment; and more.
Relevance for Teaching, Learning & Creative Expression
- Virtual world classrooms allow medical students to diagnose and treat simulated patients without experiencing the repercussions of a misdiagnosis.
- Virtual worlds offer a host of immersive experiences: meteorology students experience a tsunami from the ocean floor; difficult mathematical concepts are demonstrated in three dimensions; architectural students build scale models of projects without the cost or space constraints of physical materials.
- Many colleges and universities have a presence in Second Life, not only for the purpose of educating, but also for recruitment of prospective students and fund-raising.
- Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), New Zealand's virtual world education group, has created a virtual research center in Second Life to study effective uses of multi-user virtual environments: http://slenz.wordpress.com/
- A virtual psychiatric facility at the University of California, Davis allows visitors to experience simulated symptoms of schizophrenia: http://plutonkaras.blogspot.com/2009/02/maddening-field-trip.html
- Virtual Macbeth, a project led by the University of Sydney and funded by the Australian Arts Council, provides students, actors, and theater professionals a rich environment to consider not only the play, but its staging. A central element allows visitors to explore the psychological and emotional dimensions of Macbeth’s descent into madness. http://virtualmacbeth.wikispaces.com/
For Further Reading
7 Things You Should Know About Second Life
(ELI, EDUCAUSE, 11 June 2008.) This report describes educational uses of Second Life.
RezEd Review: The Hub for Learning and Virtual Worlds
(RezEd.org, Spring 2009, Volume 2, Issue 1.) This publication includes interviews with experts in the field of learning and virtual worlds. Topics include public policy, research, and educational uses of virtual worlds.