Whether it is Second Life or another virtual world, this foundational movement is not going away. The question to be addressed in the coming months and years is how higher education and, subsequently, individual institutions will determine the best way to continue to move forward with virtual worlds.
Virtual worlds can become an important tool in an educatorâ€™s arsenal. But using this tool requires a shift in thinking and an adjustment in pedagogical methods that will embrace the community, the fluid identity, and the participationâ€”indeed, the increased conversationâ€”that virtual spaces can provide.
The use of virtual worlds expands on the campus-based and online classrooms, enhancing learning experiences. Classes in virtual worlds offer opportunities for visualization, simulation, enhanced social networks, and shared learning experiences.
Beyond the capabilities that virtual worlds offer us at the moment, it is the possibilities that we can imagine for the future that may be the most compelling. Virtual worlds technology, like the Internet in general, is changing the way we access and experience information and the way we can access and connect with each other.
When using a roadmap, one can take many different paths to reach a desired destination. Similarly, institutions can take many different turns along the road to implementing an ideal virtual world for higher education.
Educational institutions around the world are designing and developing projects in virtual worlds. The online version of this issue of EDUCAUSE Review includes descriptions of a small sampling of these efforts (listed below), beginning with an overview of the New Media Consortiumâ€™s Second Life campus, which alone comprises the activities of more than 120 different institutions.
- Alan Levine, New Media Consortium: The NMC Campus
- P. F. Anderson and Marc R. Stephens, University of Michigan: Wolverine Island
- Mary Anne Clark, Texas Wesleyan University: Genome Island
- Chris Collins and Ronald W. Millard, University of Cincinnati: Galapagos Islands in Second Life
- Ben Digman, University of Kansas Medical Center: KUMC Isle
- Larry Dugan, Finger Lakes Community College, and Terry Keys, Monroe Community College, SUNY LIVE
- Michael Gardner and John Scott, University of Essex, and Bernard Horan, Sun Microsystems: MiRTLE
- Adrienne Gauthier and Christopher Impey, University of Arizona: ASTR202, Exploring Life in the Universe
- Anne P. Massey, Indiana University, and Mitzi Montoya, North Carolina State University: Managing the Services Lifecycle
- Janet Nepkie, James Greenberg, and Harry E. Pence, State University of New York at Oneonta: SUNY Oneonta Music Project
- Ulrich Rauch, University of Trinidad and Tobago, and Tim Wang, Marvin Cohodas, and Negin Mirriahi, University of British Columbia: Arts Metaverse
- Beth Ritter-Guth, The Hotchkiss School, Laura Nicosia, Montclair State University, and Eloise Pasteur, Eloise Pasteur Educational Designs: Literature Alive!
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