I went to a Virtual Worlds in Tourism talk the other day and it was interesting to see the differences in opinion between the researchers from the areas of Tourism, IT and Education. On one side of the spectrum the Tourism researcher was commenting on the viability of people’s/avatar’s opinions in a virtual world such as Second Life and on the other side was the IT and Education view where research has found that students were more inclined to offer their genuine opinion and are more willing to open up in a virtual environment as opposed to their shy nature in the real world. Hiding behind a mask/avatar has enabled the student or the user the ability be more open to their views and contribute more to their peers in the virtual classroom environment. It will be interesting reading the research in a couple of years once the concept of virtual worlds has settled if quality learning improves with in a virtual environment.
Second Life is the home (well second home really) to over 25 million avatars with up to 995,000+ users who have logged in, in the past 30 Days. Currently user spending is sitting at about US $5mil every 15 days and given that the Australian and the UK Governments are charging tax on any profits made in a Virtual World environment. Virtual Worlds such as Second Life shouldn’t be taken as lightheartedly unlike the previous 6 years that this world has been around. Educators are taking a look at the benefits of a virtual world as an enhancement tool for a student’s learning. Combining Second Life, Moodle and a real world classroom can be considered as a natural progression in combining online and offline materials.
Who knows? maybe in a few years (ok maybe 20+ years time) we’ll all be able to go to class just by actual teleporting and flying into a Virtual World. I’ve talked for long enough… but if you want to find out more about Second Life go to http://www.secondlife.com sign yourself up and feel free to look me up, my SL name is Butterfly Vella