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Adult Education has Presence in Second Life

The Adult Education Progam is using Second Life, an online virtual environment, as a teaching, recruitment, and marketing tool.

By William Diehl, with Pamela Batson (March 2008)

The Adult Education Program is exploring the potential uses of emerging technologies, including virtual environments such as Second Life, and its use as a teaching, recruitment, and marketing tool. Second Life is an online 3-D virtual environment in which participants from over 100 countries socialize, create and build objects, develop virtual land and participate in activities which, aside from social activities, range from business operations to conferences and educational events.


This academic year, students in Course Design and Development in Distance Education (ADTED 531) were introduced to Second Life. Michael G. Moore (aka his avatar, Professor Trevellion), professor of adult education, and adult education doctoral student, William C. Diehl (aka his avatar, Ross Mounier), facilitated student activities in Second Life, toured the Penn State land with the students, and met with them for discussions in the virtual world. The students in the course also reflected on their experiences using blogs, wikis, and forums in the Angel course management system used by Penn State. Fall 2007 served as a trial run, and after receiving student feedback, Moore and Diehl, along with World Campus staff, are planning to include a Second Life experience in future offerings of ADTED 531.


“Instructors and students enjoyed the experiment and considered the experience to be a positive one,” said Moore. “However, they concluded that while there is great potential for these new social networking technologies in the provision of distance learning, their effectiveness will depend on educational institutions investing in innovative course design procedures and in training faculty to teach in new ways.”

Moore’s reports based on this research have included two keynote addresses: one at the European Distance Education Network Conference in Naples, Italy last June titled, “The bottles are new, but what of the wine? Managing Learning and Teaching in Web 2.0” and another at the Brazilian Association for Distance Education’s 13th International Conference inCuritiba, Brazil, last September titled, “"Web 2.0: mirage or metamorphosis?"


Diehl has co-authored with Esther Prins, assistant professor of adult education, a research article titled “Unintended Outcomes in Second Life: Intercultural Literacy and Cultural Identity in a Virtual World,” that will be published this year in the Journal of Language and Intercultural Communication.


Diehl also presented a Web 2.0 and Second Life-related paper at the 12th Cambridge International Conference on Open and Distance Learning in Cambridge, UK, last fall and is presenting on the topic of education and learning in Second Life at the American Education Research Conference (AERC), June 5-7, in St. Louis, Mo. The purpose of the AERC is to promote the improvement of research and evaluation in adult education and to foster professional collaboration among persons who promote research, conduct research, or utilize research findings in the field of adult education


Since opening to the public in 2003, Second Life has grown tremendously and today is inhabited by millions of residents from around the globe.