UK Higher and Further Education developments in Second Life.
This report shows that a growing number of UK academic institutions, departments and groups are at different stages of Second Life (SL) development. It is, perhaps, presumptuous to conclude that UK Higher Education has reached a “tipping point” in terms of using and developing facilities in SL. However, there has been a considerable increase in activity between March and July 2007, marked by the beginning and end of this survey. The appendix lists over 40 UK Universities and Colleges that have a building, land or island on the grid, many appearing in the last few weeks and not yet open for public visiting while they are being developed.
While some institutions are openly and actively developing in SL, others are doing so less publicly, and others still are either watching developments before making a decision, or being slowed down by institutional bureaucracy. Support services for Higher and Further Education are noting a high level of consideration:
“There's been a lot of interest in SL within the colleges in our region recently and we've received quite a few requests for information on the subject.”
Several institutions are interested in SL from the income stream perspectives of marketing (future students) and alumni (previous students):
“There has been quite a burgeoning of interest in SL across the university, and our Alumni Office is getting very interested. Their aspirations are, of course, quite different from ours.”
“The island was to include promotional information on the college, the University of Greenwich and our HE computing courses.”
It will be interesting to observe how these different perspectives – marketing, teaching and learning – drive institutions’ developments on the grid.
One point that came through very strongly in this survey was that many academics are developing in SL with a view to providing facilities for the 2007-2008 academic year:
“We are not officially open yet but plan to be in October 2007 and that's when we will start teaching.”
“Teaching with students is planned for later this year.”
“My aim is to launch four large courses in September.”
The end of the 2007-08 academic year, therefore, should provide an opportunity to take stock of these developments and discover how widespread and “mature” they are. At that point, there should be sufficient qualitative and quantitative data to provide a more considered analysis of the effectiveness or usefulness of SL in the provision of learning services within UK education.
Snapshot 1: July 2007 (184Kb PDF document)