Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Using Second Life as a Virtual Classroom

In my previous two posts, I wrote about virtual classrooms, and introduced Second Life.

This week's lecture was, interestingly, a combination of the two.

A virtual classroom in Second Life

The class logged in to Second Life at the same time, and the lecture was conducted via this virtual auditorium.

The class room itself is situated on the Middlesex University virtual campus. It's an impressive complex, with various things to do, and so much stuff created.

The lecturer used the slides behind him on the main stage to good effect, although it is very awkward to import an actual PowerPoint presentation or KeyNote. Plus, just about anyone could arbitrarily change the current slide.

Hiccups and Issues

The lecture itself suffered from various issues, bandwidth latency and lag in particular.

There were other issues. Not everyone is completely acquainted with the controls in Second Life. Although Linden Lab have gone to great pains to make the SL Client easy to use, it still entails a significant learning curve.

Interactions between the students (us) and the lecturer were stilted, awkward, and felt forced.

It is difficult to share files and source code, and links. The chat client proved handy for discussing some things, but it wasn't enough. Plus, we were getting nearby chat from people who had nothing to do with the lecture, which was not encouraging.

No Room For Debate

However, the biggest problem, was, as predicted, simulating a real classroom environment — most importantly, the complete lack of a live, exciting classroom debate.


In short, this was not the most productive lecture in this module.

I'd like to bring up an unlikely comparison. With Apple, or, more accurately, a philosophy they follow: Great technology disappears.

The better a piece of technology is, whether it's hardware or software, the more it fades into the background. The better a technology is, the less you have to think about it. You are allowed to fully focus on what you're doing, and not on what you're doing it.

Typing this post on laptop, I completely forget about the laptop itself. In a sense, I'm not conscious of the technology, I just use — I'm fully focussed on the writing.

In Second Life, you're constantly thinking about the technology, and not about what you're doing.

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