Virtual 3D Worlds
Virtual 3D worlds like Second Life are the new platform for distance education. Students and teachers from all over the world are going online to form study groups, attend classes, network and learn.
Distance education has a long history – even before the advent of 3D worlds. What we call distance education was formerly known as correspondence classes. 20 years ago you could sign up with universities to take classes through the mail for college credit. Only a few universities offered this service and only a few courses were available from which to choose.
The next step in distance education before virtual 3D worlds was the online class format. Universities across the globe offer classes online. Teachers and students communicate via email and usually meet in a chat type environment once a week for a question and answer session. Some even use webcam systems and enhance the realism of their distance learning classes. There are also several universities which only give their classes online.
Today students and teachers can interact in real time through virtual worlds such as Second Life. Major universities including Harvard and Stanford and smaller universities have gone live with their classes and have their instructors giving lectures in real time.
How it Works
The process is very easy and does not require you to be a computer whiz to sign up and attend a class. To sign up for a virtual class you must be a member of the host world. If your college sponsors classes in Second Life you will need to be a Second Life member to participate.
Second Life memberships are available for free. They also have a paid membership but it is not required for attending classes. As soon as you sign up for a membership you will be asked to choose your basic avatar. This avatar can be customized later with the Second Life Viewer Interface and will be your representative in the virtual 3D world and will attend classes, interact with other students, and participate in other activities.
Users must initially sign up and pay for their class through their university. They will be given a pass code to access the class in Second Life. As mentioned earlier, Second Life does not charge students to attend classes.
Who Can Attend
Anyone who is a registered student at the providing university can sign up for virtual 3D world classes. But education in Second Life is not limited to college students only. Many high schools have seen the success colleges have had online and are now offering high school classes in this same format. Businesses and other organizations also offer classes and training to their workers and other second lifers in-world.
Students will also find they can do much more than just attend classes. Many students network and form study groups. They meet in one of the numerous Second Life libraries and study for their classes just as they would in real life. They can take advantage of all of the other activities available in 3D worlds too – parties, shopping, creating new things and much more. Sounds like the perfect college experience!
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