This Seely-Brown article we have been asked to read is over ten years old, so it is inevitable that what is discussed as
cutting edge innovation will not seem quite so startlingly cutting edge in 2019! However – there
are themes and patterns in the innovation which Seely-Brown refers to which have
Second Life is something I have only ever heard of as being a bit dated. Like many other
platforms which have attracted a large following there have been attempts to utilize
the function for learning related activity even though the platforms were not designed
with learning in mind and this is what my studies have focused on. What Second Life offers incidentally, rather than by design, is a simulated version
of an existing educational or learning activity – in this case simulated
lectures, tutorials and study groups. These activities have traditionally been
situated but the internet has allowed a ‘virtual’ version to happen alongside,
or instead of, the situated activities. Simulation of learning activities can
expand the reach of the activity massively – to many more students in many more
places. It can also extend the reach in terms of breadth of areas studied. Niche subjects may struggle to attract a sufficient cohort in any given
physical university, but these may operate nicely as a globally situated study
group. It is, in my opinion, a desire for these two extensions of reach which have necessitated and inspired the innovation education has seen in recent decades. More learners, more subjects to learn.
Learners gathered within Second Life can collaborate and discuss, and even support and mentor one another, over the
internet in a similar way as they can in a lecture hall. Gallego et al. (2016) are enthusiastic about how
students ‘feel’ like they are in the same environment even when situated across
the world. Gallego et al. test the three hypotheses which suggest students will
be more engaged if it is a) convenient, b) fun and c) social (essentially!) I
looked most thoroughly at this paper as it was relatively recent and fit the
PROMPT criteria of being well presented, relevant, objective, there was detailed
description of the method employed, the paper was published in a peer reviewed
journal and it’s relatively timely. The paper also claimed that upwards of 500
universities have a platform on Second Life.
2014, took a different approach and researched the way in which Second Life
could be a useful pedagogical tool in which to engage learners with specific and
preferred learning styles. The conclusion of their research was that some
students will enjoy and engage with Second Life as a learning resource but this
will be as a function of their preferred learning style (rather than the
problem Seely-Brown addressed – the lack of physical space in educational
about the current use of Second Life by educational institutions involved me
googling ‘UK Universities using Second Life’. There was a flurry of activity
around 2008 (inspired by, or inspiring the Seely-Brown paper?) but little else.
My suspicion is that Second Life, as a proprietary brand, is little used.
However – the questions it answered and opportunities it offered may not be.
absolutely see how Second Life can be used for learning and educational
purposes. I also wonder if some of the functions available in Second Life are
not only superfluous to any learning aims but also distracting from it. Does
each student really need an avatar? Must tutorials be held in virtual gazebos
on virtual tropical islands?! However – if Second Life is where students are it
makes sense for educators and practitioners to meet them there. Just as
Facebook does not offer any specific learning tools or educational functions it
is still a valuable place for simulated learning activities to happen as that is
where the students are.
Our OU group
is one small testimony to the value of distributed study groups – we are
scattered across the world yet, if my experience in H800 is anything to go by,
are likely to operate in very similar ways as we would if we were gathered in a
classroom (minus the coffee!). We have no avatars and will converse with voices
and text. The superfluous, or extraneous, adds less value than it is worth. The
John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler (2008) ‘Minds on fire. Open education, the long tail, and learning 2.0’, Educause review, 17(February). Available at: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0811.pdf.�
Gallego, M. D., Bueno, S. and Noyes, J. (2016) ‘Second Life adoption in education: A motivational model based on Uses and Gratifications theory’, Computers and Education. Elsevier Ltd, 100, pp. 81–93. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2016.05.001.
Cheng, G. (2014) ‘Exploring students’ learning styles in relation to their acceptance and attitudes towards using Second Life in education: A case study in Hong Kong’, Computers and Education. Elsevier Ltd, 70, pp. 105–115. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.08.011.|