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Friday, November 09, 2007

Second Life...Its Synchronous

Second Life has come under a lot of attack recently because "it's empty." One especially hard hitting article How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life complained that "there's the question of what people do when they get there. Once you put in several hours flailing around learning how to function in Second Life, there isn't much to do."

Then the Yankee group made a statement that the average person in Second Life only spends 12 minutes a month in world. Although Linden Labs disputs that finding.

See The Metaverse Hype, Decline and Realism Cycle--We've Seen It Before for my take on the hype and "decline" of the interest in SL.

However, what these complaints reveal is that the people getting into Second Life don't understand it. Second Life is a Synchronous tool which means, you need more than one person to make it work. It would be like having a Web Ex or Adobe Connect session by yourself. Sure the technology works but its not productive or fun with one person.

Second Life works best for learning when the following elements are in place:
  • An instructor or facilitator is present to guide the activity
  • Other learners are engaged in the activity
  • The activity is supported by the 3D environment (meaning the environment matches the activity, like teaching security checks in an environment in which the security guard will be working)
  • Teamwork is an essential element for a learner's success or a one-on-one role play requiring an expert is critical
For tips on on conducting an effective class in SL see: Designing a 3D Learning event


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Anonymous said...

I listen to Science Friday on NPR on podcasts and they apparently have a Second Life room where avatars go in and participate in the discussion. Sounds like they have a pretty active S.L. synchronous participation.

Bart said...

I agree that the power of SL is synchronous opportunities, but two things come to mind:

1. I have a class of 45 students and want to use SL for in-class activities. My SL server supports 40 avatars 'in theory', and after testing, it's more like 25. This makes the synchronous opportunities much more complex to implement. Not impossible, but complex.

2. I have seen things in SL that represent great learning opportunities asynchronously. The NOAA space comes to mind, where they've created simulations of natural disasters. I can go there by myself and learn a great deal.