An update of the July 2007 “snapshot” of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life.
This updated report shows that a growing number of UK academic institutions, departments and groups are at different stages of Second Life development.
The summer of 2007 has seen several HE/FE institutions appear, in some form, on the grid. For example, Falmouth College has recently started its Second Life activity:
“At present we're planning two projects to test the water. First with BA (Hons) Journalism first year students who will use Second Life as their 'beat' (they have to report in Real Life as well) and try to place material in the various Second Life periodicals. I'll be borrowing (or squatting) space in October to facilitate that.
We also seem to have inspired enough interest (and equal scepticism, needless to say) in the Cornish tourism industry to buy an island which will be used to develop both training ideas and immersive promotional material. The first academic / industry meeting happens in October (Real Life but we intend to blend it as much as possible).”
Along the coast at Bournemouth University, Andy Pullman and colleagues are also moving quickly with their developments:
“We are currently renting some space on UK Education Island 2 (from August 2007) for a one year project to examine and investigate the use and effectiveness of Second Life. As a part of this project, we have created the HSC Gallery which exhibits teleport links to interesting Health & Social Care areas within Second Life.
Other Second Life participants are being encouraged to provide exhibits for their Second Life Health and Social care projects which we will then display in the gallery. I am also blogging about our HSC activities in Second Life.”
Some institutional and departmental islands, such as those developed by staff at Leicester and Wolverhampton universities, are now open for public access. Those previously open, such as at Nottingham Trent University, have developed rapidly over the last few months.
While some institutions are openly and actively developing in Second Life, 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 Second Life within the colleges in our region recently (July 2007) and we've received quite a few requests for information on the subject.”
Several institutions are interested in Second Life from the income stream perspectives of marketing (future students) and alumni (previous students):
“There has been quite a burgeoning of interest in Second Life 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 institutional developments on the grid.
One point repeated through the July 2007 survey was that many academics were developing in Second Life with a view to running courses in the new 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 for large courses in September.”
As the 2007-08 academic year progresses and these, and other, courses are run, the advantages and limitations of using SL in teaching and learning will become clearer. Consequently, the next two snapshots (March and September 2008) will focus more on the “impact” of using Second Life within formal Higher and Further Education.
Snapshot 2: September 2007 (233Kb PDF document)