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Seely Brown and Adler - social learning online

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Edited by Amanda Harrington-Vail, Thursday, 24 Apr 2014, 14:38

Terra Incognita project



“A current example of an attempt to harness the power of study groups in a virtual environment is the Terra Incognita project of the University of Southern Queensland (Australia), which has built a classroom in Second Life, the online virtual world that has attracted millions of users. In addition to supporting lecture-style teaching, Terra Incognita includes the capability for small groups of students who want to work together to easily “break off” from the central classroom before rejoining the entire class” (Seely Brown and Adler, 2008 p. 20).

Historical context

According to Linden Labs, the developer of Second Life, as of November 6, 2007, more than 10.5 million people had signed up for accounts in the virtual world. In the thirty days prior to that date, just over 980,000 unique individuals had logged in to Second Life, and nearly 500,000 people had logged in during the previous week (Second Life, 2014a).

Current situation

However this popular social learning recently closed. Dean (2014) used to run the project but due to personal circumstances could no longer do so and closed it on 09.01.2014. Second Life (2014b) confirmed Terra Incognita’s status change as being inactive and offline on 12.01.2014. Although there is a way forward, “Virtual World Web” has been used previously as a method for moving from the online Second Life website to effective offline participation (Bryan, 2014).

Other published work or research on this project - relating to PROMPT

The Seely Brown and Adler (2008) research was published in January 2008. Work by WikiEducator (2013) discusses the Terra Incognita project five years later.  However WikiEducator is associated with Wikipedia which is not considered a reputable academic source due to its multi-editing function. Therefore it would not meet the PROMPT criteria. Additionally there is a piece by Rozen and Leonhart (2008) on the Terra Incognita project written in December 2008. Although 11 months after the Seely Brown and Adler work, with sufficient time for a brief review, the item appears only to be in draft format. Moreover it is not being particularly current so there would have likely been considerable change during that time. For the purpose of PROMPT it demonstrates that is insufficiently recent.  However there are some recent and reputable sources that have discussed this project, Corder (2011) and the University of Texas (2012).


Although the Terra Incognita project has recently ended, this blog aims to demonstrate how it could continue and uses PROMPT criteria in discussing appropriate evidencing of academic work.


All comments and ideas are appreciated.



Bryan (2014) http://sled.577505.n2.nabble.com/Terra-incognita-will-go-offline-tomorrow-9th-Jan-td7582536.html

Corder (2011) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/world-widehorizons/Second_Life_Corder_presentation_part_2.pdf

Dean (2014) http://sled.577505.n2.nabble.com/Terra-incognita-will-go-offline-tomorrow-9th-Jan-td7582536.html

Rozen and Leonhart (2008) http://www.usu.edu/ust/pdf/2008/december/itn1229087.pdf

Second Life (2014a) http://secondlife.com/whatis/economy_stats.php

Second Life (2014b) http://gridsurvey.com/display.php?id=9917

WikiEducator (2013) http://wikieducator.org/Minds_On_Fire


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Linda Audsley

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I had real difficulty finding anything contemporary too Amanda.  Still, between us, I think we've done a sterling job!


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“Virtual World Web” has been used previously as a method for moving from the online Second Life website to effective offline participation

It's interesting that the way forward here is off line participation.

Graduation 2008

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Hi Linda Yes I like the way we found different aspects to the same research, it just goes to demonstrate the value that collaborative activities have.
Graduation 2008

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Yes Julia, I was quite surprised by this. I think of Second Life as a popular online activity. I hadn't considered it as separate projects and the necessity for some to go offline, additionally the reasons why or how this could be achieved.
Patricia Dean

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Hi Amanda,

You may be happy to hear that to my surprise I discovered several months ago that Terra incognita, though offline, had not been deleted by Linden Lab and after securing private funding (the island doesn't qualify for the 50% discount and being in the UK we have VAT to pay) I was able to have the island reactivated.  I'm currently in the process of redeveloping the island and it is open to the public to visit while this happens.  You'll find that items are literally up in the air though currently due to the ongoing terraforming of parts of the island.

Feel free to contact me in Second Life as my avatar Tori Landau.

Best wishes,