Second Life – Virtual adventures

avatar view in Second Life

Avatar Hysterious aerial view of Caerleon Uni 2016


Johnson & Levine (2008) remind us that immersive learning is not new. For example, apprenticeships and on-the-job-training immersed apprentices in learning environments to acquire skills throughout history (Billet, 1994; Johnson & Levine, 2008). It is with this in mind that learning experiences in Second Life are considered. Specifically, how learning is extended by engaging in this specific immersive environment.

Evaluation of features and functions

Learning to navigate a CVE

Collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) such as Second Life® ameliorate barriers such as time and space, affording educators and learners opportunities to interact with each other anywhere, anytime. Multiple users share 3D virtual environments synchronously interacting via avatars. There are many tutorials available to hone skills in this immersive CVE. For example, Second Life® wikis, blogs and destinations such as Caledon and New Resident Island which provide comprehensive, immersive tutorials to understand and practice basic navigation, teleporting and avatar setup. I discovered however, that mastery is time-consuming and dependent on a fast internet connection. Further, refinements in avatar gestures also requires exploring the Marketplace for animation overrides (AO), scripted attachments which replace the standard default gestures such as walk, run, jump with more sophisticated gestures. While some AOs are free, many require spending Linden dollars (Second Life currency).


3D graphics are rendered in Second Life using OpenGL technology which have system requirements of 3GB or more. The platform also requires high speed cable or DSL to stream audio and video files. Even in the 21st century this is still an accessibility issue with many users in overseas countries, schools with limited budgets or rural areas in Australia who are unable to access high speed connections (Linden Research Inc., 2016; see also Warburton, 2009). Both these requirements limit the use of this environment for educational purposes.

Learning affordances – Teaching scenarios and educational/information institutions

Social learning and role play

Studies have documented the effectiveness of virtual reality environments for student groups such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) students to facilitate the acquisition and practice of social skills in a safe simulated environment (Cheng, Chiang, Ye & Cheng, 2010; Lorenzo, Pomares & Lledo, 2013).

The choice of avatars in virtual worlds also provide people with disability the opportunity to ‘negotiate and challenge conventional media representations’ of themselves. In an international ethnographic study, discussions with disabled residents in Second Life ™ regarding their choice of avatars for self-representation, disclosure and authentic self-expression were recorded by Bloustien and Wood (2016).

Group learning

The Ramapo Island Project is another example of the affordances of a CVE to provide an ‘immersive’ group learning experience using role play (Ramapo Island Project, 2007). Second Life has also been used successfully by Nursing educators (e.g. teachernurse, 2010; University of Nottingham, 2010) to provide nurses with scenarios for problem based learning.

Long distance

I personally benefitted from the inherently social learning affordances of Second Life and Facebook. I was in the CSU-SIS Second Life site trying to work out how to ‘touch’ the computer. I was simultaneously posting on Facebook. Another student logged into Second Life, teleported and met me at the CSU-SIS destination. I received a quick lesson and was recommended tutorials at Caledon before she left.

Information Services

Information Service providers (libraries, health, government, museums) can use the affordance of Second Life to collaborate and interact with their users in the following ways:

  • orient users to their services
  • connect users with each other and
  • provide access to tutorials, information and conferences.

Current examples of services using Second Life as a platform to collaborate online include Health Info Island, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic.


Visit my padlet to see the destinations that I teleported to.


Billett, S. (1994). Situating learning in the workplace: Having another look at Apprenticeships. Industrial and Commercial Training, 26(11) 9-16.

Bloustien, G. & Wood, D. (2016). Visualising disability and activism in Second Life. Current Sociology, 64(1), 101-121.

Cheng, Y., Chiang, H-C, Ye, J. & Cheng, L-H. (2010). Enhancing empathy instruction using a collaborative virtual learning environment for children with autistic spectrum disorders. Computers & Education, 55, 1449-1458.

Lorenzo, G., Pomares, J. & Ledó, A. Inclusion of immersive learning environments and visual control systems to support the learning of students with Asperger syndrome. Computers & Education, 62, 88-101.

Draxtor Despres. (2010). The Drax files: World makers. Episode 22 Virtual Health Adventures [Video file]. Retrieved

Johnson, L.F. & Levine, A.H. (2008). Virtual worlds: Inherently immersive, highly social learning spaces. Theory Into Practice, 47(2), 161-170.

Linden Research Inc. (2016a). Caledon.

Linden Research Inc. (2016b). Charles Sturt University. School of Information Studies.

Linden Research Inc. (2016c). Exploratorium. Exploratium General.

Linden Research Inc. (2016d). HealthInfo Island.

Linden Research Inc. (2016e). Lawst Paradise.

Linden Research Inc. (2106f). NASA International Spaceflight Museum.

Linden Research Inc. (2016g). New Caerleon. Retrieved from

Linden Research Inc. (2016h). Second Life Wiki: Primitive. Retrieved from

Linden Research Inc. (2016hi). Stanford University Library. Retrieved from

Linden Research Inc. (2016j). System requirements, Retrieved from

Linden Research Inc. (2016k). Virtual Health Adventures Island.

Linden Research Inc. (2016l). The Virtual University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from

Linden Research Inc. (2016m). University of Western Australia. Retrieved from

Ramapo Island Project. (2007). Of mice and men [Web log post]. Retrieved from

teachernurse. (2010). Getting started with Second Life for Nursing Education [Video file]. Retrieved from

University of Nottingham. (2010). Maternity ward in Second Life [Video file}. Retrieved from

Warburton, S. (2009). Second Life in higher education: Assessing the potential for and the barriers to deploying virtual worlds in learning and teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3). doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00952.x

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