Second Life in higher education

Glacier exhibitIf you've been thinking about how you can use Second Life in your college classroom, you're not alone. For more than three years, trade publications like The Chronicle of Higher Education and EDUCAUSE Review have included articles discussing the possibilities for Second Life in academia. Many of these articles have come from professors who have tried the technology in their own teaching. These instructors point out both Second Life's innovative opportunities and its challenges.

In a September 21, 2007 Chronicle article article, Andrea Foster tells the story of Professor Edward Lamoreux, an associate professor of multimedia at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Lamoreux uses Second Life to teach an undergraduate ethnography class. The virtual world, he suggests, is a safe alternative to the seedy streets of downtown Peoria for students to conduct field research.

However, others have suggested that Second Life brings its own set of risks to students. Some educators have pointed to the prevalence of sexual activity and bad behavior, known as "griefing," in the virtual world as reasons to reconsider using Second Life. Others, including administrators and legal experts, have raised liability concerns relating to the confidentiality of student records, copyright law and underage student pariticipation.

Still, many educators believe these obstacles can be overcome and will eventually get worked out. In the meantime, instructors all over the world from a wide range of disciplines are testing the waters and trying out Second Life with their students.

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