Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Second Life University

We're off of this topic right now, but this morning I found an interesting article on msn...

With the upswing of online universities, this almost (key word: almost) seems like a good idea. You can "sit" in a class with other people from around the world, and interact with them within the Second Life world.

The class knows about this, but for those who are reading this and unaware, Second Life is a virtual world (a la The Sims but more real) where people can make a persona and live a life as that person in the virtual world. I do not use this particular program, so I know relatively little about it as far as functionality goes.

While this may seem like a good idea, it may cause just as many problems. First, any member of an educational class could easily lie about anything about them. Not that that is anything new, but some people may have a problem not being able to see the actual person. Also, what about tests (not that I've encountered this problem in the online classes I took at UW-GB); it would be simple to make notes and have every possible resource available to take these tests, or be able to control that anyways. In my case, it was stated that they could be used (like no one would take advantage of that anyways.)

The article does mention that Second Life is its own culture, and I would agree with it, but this culture can only exist as long as it is plugged in. Also, there is no real room for advancement in real life (as far as I know). Anything you have or do is limited to what is on the server, or your computer, or whatever they use for it. So you own a house on what? That doesn't help you here.

Used as a classroom setting, however, Second Life could have some great uses. Even if it isn't real life, you can still get some pretty diverse opinions, as there would be more people from different locales around the world.

One more problem with this is that it doesn't replace real life interaction with people, but can help create problems that can't be done safely in real life; natural disasters, nuclear explosions, or Michael Jackson dying and coming back as a zombie. This would allow people in these fields, such as health care, to attempt to take care of the problem in their own ways. Now, the program would probably be set up that the student/player would always "win", as attack dogs are always allowed to win in training, assuming that they perform the correct actions. Real life doesn't work that way, and may lead to false confidence in people. Also, things such as surgery probably can't be done this way.

So in a classroom setting, this could be great. In practical settings it can be hit or miss, depending on what that setting is.


Mike Anzia said...

Sorry the link didn't show up correctly on the blog post. You'll have to type that in as the link is on separate lines, and not one straight link.

Dani said...

Hey that game game CAN affect your real life (no not like the evercrack people neglicting things) I mean you can make money on it, In fact htere is a really wealthy Chinese women on there who sells real estate in second life and makes close to a million dollars a year from it. It was featured in maximun PC I think. or PC gamer, I forget. There is also an american man that does that too. If you are familiar with the term "Gold Farming"? ANY mmorpg player knows and its looked down upon. But people in poorer countries are creating a virual economy that translates to the real world from virtuel needs like hard to get armour or souped up players, or mundane crap like on second life. (personally I prefer games with a story, not just full of level up whoring)

Josh said...

And the ironic thing is that you posted this information on a blog that counts for class participation! Online interaction can be found throughout education, such as this blog where we discuss topics that could be explored later (but the students are graded on the numbers of blogs they post, not on the participation in class, which shows a preference towards the technology). Classes can also be taken online. I didn't read the article, but the post did seem to contain the irony that I mentioned at the start of this comment.

Amanda said...

Second life was actually created by some university students I beleive as a way to help those with limited or no social skills. The game was designed as a setting that would be comfotable for those students, which is why it was an online game. It developed into what it is today from this.
I know this because it was on a discusion board about autism a while ago and someone posted the history about it.

Mike Anzia said...

I understand your points, but now I'm going to play devils advocate...

Dani, I really do frown upon practices such as selling e-real estate. I guess in my mind, it doesn't really make sense as to why anyone would want to spend real money on a game. Also, what's the point to playing a game if you're going to have someone else essentially play it for you? A lot of the fun of any RPG is finding the next great thing. Some games (such as (Z)Angband) even have random item coding in them so different play-throughs can have completely different feels (Angband is a bad example, as its pretty much hack-and-slash).

I do acknowledge the irony of my posting this particular blog, especially when I went after Second Life like I did. I have to say that it isn't that simple. We do still interact with each other outside of this blog, whereas the Second Life classes would not.

I can accept using it for those with little or no social capability. And as a distance learning tool it would work equally well, as it would be the best way to simulate a classroom for those who can't be there.