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Using virtual worlds in education: Second Life as an educational tool

Page history last edited by Nicholas Freeman 13 years, 3 months ago

Baker, S. C., Wentz, R. K., & Woods, M. M. (2009). Using virtual worlds in education: Second Life as an educational tool. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 59-64.



As the title suggests, this article discusses using virtual worlds such as Second Life as an educational tool. Second Life is an online world in which people interact through their avatars. That is, a user would create a character (avatar), and then navigate the avatar throughout the virtual world. In the virtual world, users can do things that they would do in the natural world (i.e., travel to different places, talk to people, etc.) as well things that are humanly impossible (i.e., fly). Interestingly, over 100 universities (including Princeton, Vassar, and North Carolina) own land in Second Life. Thus, it is a technology that educational institutions have taken note of.

            After providing a background regarding Second Life, the authors discuss the ways in which it can be used to complement a class. One major application is that it provides a virtual meeting space for professors and students to meet. For instance, students can attend lectures or office hours in the virtual world. This is done by simply arranging for avatars to meet at a predetermined spot. Dialogue is exchanged through either text format or voice software. Virtual worlds can also be used to create class-related demonstrations. The authors mention a place in Second Life where users can manipulate their avatar through an environment that simulates what an individual with schizophrenia experiences.

            The article concludes with a description of some of the advantages and disadvantages of using Second Life, as well an evaluation of the technology from 9 college students. The primary advantages have already been discussed (i.e., common meeting place, interactive demonstrations), while the disadvantages include time learning the software and resources needed to use the software. Students who actually used Second Life to attend a lecture generally reported enjoying the experience. Although there are many remaining questions regarding the use of Second Life and virtual worlds as an educational tool, it seems apparent that the technology offers some promise.


Created by: Nicholas Freeman (12/2/09)


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