ADVANTAGES

Although many administrators and instructors are familiar with course management systems and campus portals, fewer have experience with virtual worlds and may question their academic relevance. A good example of a virtual world used as a classroom is Second Life, an online environment designed to support creativity, collaboration, commerce, and entertainment. Although members can play games in this world, the environment itself is not a game in the traditional sense. Instead, it is an open environment (what some call synthetic reality) where members can interact with each other and build things (for example, buildings, games, clothing, furniture) for use within the virtual world. A growing community of educators uses Second Life for instructional purposes. In fall 2005, the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin used Second Life in the course Designing Digital Communities, and Southern New Hampshire University used it in Introduction to International Business. Figure 2 shows a snapshot of my Second Life avatar, Hoptoad Flan, enjoying a relaxing moment.

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