Second Life is a multi-user virtual environment with user created content facilitated by its open architecture. Second Life is a place where you can anonymously play and try out new or different experiences without the constraints of the real world. Second Life has applications for education and training and is used by many universities. (Helmer, 2007).
I was aware of Second Life but had never used it before. Computer games and simulations are not something I usually partake in so I took the opportunity offered by Carole Gerts to explore Second Life. I think I would have struggled to acclimatise to the virtual world without Carole as a guide. The vast array of options, commands, new terminology and motor skills required to move my avatar was daunting. The places we visited highlighted the advantages of Second Life as a discovery and learning tool. In a one hour session I met fellow classmates and we teleported to different places and were able to view archives and scanned pages of rare books at Stanford University, have fun with science at the Exploratorium and view art at the University of Western Australia. Due to our inexperience we didn’t communicate with each other that much but I can see how collaborative this would be with more experienced users. Information organisations could deliver authentic learning experiences for employees or users who are separated by distance. Collaboration between different information organisations could also occur with virtual conferences, meetings, working groups and training sessions.
There are some barriers to using Second Life. The client software must be downloaded to a computer with sufficient resources to run the sophisticated application and adequate bandwidth to avoid it slowing down. New users need to spend time learning how to navigate the controls, understand the terminology and how to manoeuvre their avatar. To become comfortable using Second Life, its creator Linden Labs, recommends at least four hours of training. This is a substantial time commitment before you even start to use it for educational or training purposes.
The use of Second Life or similar multi-user virtual environments would likely increase if they were able to be used in a web browser. Future development in virtual spaces would also have to take into consideration the ubiquity of mobile devices and the opportunities afforded by cloud computing.
Helmer, J. (2007). Second Life and virtual worlds Learning Light. Retrieved from http://www.norfolkelearningforum.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/virtual-worlds_ll_oct_2007.pdf