Education and three-dimensional virtual worlds : a critical review and analysis of applying second life in higher education Gong, Wenyi
Three-dimensional (3D) virtual world Second Life was launched in 2003 and has since become one of the most frequently used 3D virtual worlds in education. Educational practices supported by 3D virtual worlds might continue to be a part of the educational discussion in the near future. In the light of the increasing popularity of the 3D virtual world Second Life in higher education, a review of the existing literature appears to be necessary in order to provide educators with insights into their in-world and real-life educational practices. To that end, this study provides a clear summary of the previous research on the Second Life as a learning tool in higher education. It also explores its affordances, advantages and drawbacks. There is a growing body of research showing that Second Life can support authentic learning and self-directed learning, enhance collaboration, engage learners, create alternative space for educational activities, encourage communities for practice and foster cross-cultural competencies. Despite the issues concerning technology, cost, time, identity and culture, the benefits of application in education outweigh its drawbacks. Practitioners and participants in higher education need to be aware of the potential challenges when incorporating Second Life in education, and actively seek strategies to optimize their educational practices in 3D virtual worlds.
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