Re: [xmca] zopeds and virtual learning environments

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sun Jan 07 2007 - 11:45:55 PST

I have been messing around on Second Life (SL) in recent months. In
my opinion it has numerous pros and cons as a vehicle for students
and teachers to interact academically.

Some pros:
1. A room with all relevant web links posted could be created, making
it easy to "see" the materials a course or discussion group is working on.
2. The ability to create your own avatar and move it around creates a
strong sense of "being" there.
3. Casual chat room encounters would be easy, as would scheduling
times when a professor or TA would be there, times when specific
students would meet online, etc.

Some cons:
1. As Mike points out, access to the stronger computers required for
SL and time to use them is uneven among students.
2. SL like any software requires time to develop the skills to get
around, time to fix problems. Just creating an avatar and dressing
it can take some time, even hours. Finding free clothing or
designing one's own is possible. Buying clothing is also common, but
that takes real US money and a credit card. (Part of the power of SL
is it has a real economy using real money and real labor. One can
dress nicely for under $5US. If one wanted to, using SL scripts, one
could design such clothes, rent or own a shop to sell them in, and
make a little money).
3. One must be online in real time to communicate - there is no
e-mail way to participate in a conversation.
4. SL does not keep a record of chat conversations after one logs
off. (It is possible to copy a conversation into a word processor.)
5. As was pointed out tactfully, SL does have a strong raunchy side
that could offend some. Keeping that dimension of SL segregated is
probably easy enough, but this creative aspect of SL is likely to
reappear in a muted but not unnoticeable way - by how the students
dress and design the bodies of their avatars. Even if an avatar is
not especially "sexual" in appearance, it can still be somewhat
distracting - it could be a scary robot, a devil on fire, a zombie, a
very muscular, large man, a small child. I have no problem with any
of these things, but others might find aspects of it
distracting. Socially, it could be a little like requiring students
to do their networking at a weekly Halloween party.

But none of these cons means that this kind of on-line venue should
not be explored. On the contrary. The sense of "being there" in an
MMO environment truly is such a powerful dimension that it really
must be explored for its potential, and it will. It will be
fascinating to see where this relatively new technology goes.

- Steve Gabosch

At 09:56 AM 1/7/2007 -0800, Mike wrote:
>Clearly ways to explore ways to probe the potential of Second Life/SL are
>worthwhile and from varous
>posts it seems like there is more than a little "local" expertise on XMCA.
>I've started to probe here at UCSD
>with relevant colleagues.

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