Colleges and universities are experimenting with ways to use Second Life to enhance their educational offerings and recently this column featured the program at Texas State Technical College that allows students to earn an AA degree with classes taken entirely in Second Life. Now the University of Texas has announced a worldwide first – the move of a state-wide university system into Second Life.
Current planning calls for all 16 University of Texas campuses to be represented in an archipelago of at least 49 islands in a one year experiment, the Virtual Learning Community Initiative (VLCI). The goals include creating a "virtual learning community of students, faculty, researchers and administrators," and transforming "the learning experiences and opportunities for individual undergraduate students." The University expects to allocate three islands per campus, and four islands for collaborative use.
Among the goals for the project are to enrich the learning experience while reducing brick-and-mortar costs, improving energy efficiency, and developing a model that will be useful for other state-wide systems. The University will be working closely with Linden Lab to develop the new program and to collect data on successful ways of using Second Life that will be shared with educators and similar systems, and has announced eleven objectives for measuring its success.
You can learn more about the University of Texas Virtual Learning Community Initiative at tuelearningcommunity.com/vlci.
"I was only browsing colleges, nothing serious, when I found out you could take the classes in Second Life… . It was going to enable me to go to class with professors in Texas while I stayed in Montana! It was going to give me the real time interaction with a real professor without having to go out of the home. I was sold!" Indasky Boa – her Second Life avatar name – was describing how she reacted when she first learned about Texas State Technical College‘s virtual education vTSTC program in Second Life. The program offers certificate and AAS degrees in Digital Media and Digital Signage.
Last week, on August 21, 2009, Indasky graduated from the vTSTC certificate program. An indifferent student in her previous educational experiences, her vTSTC experience gave her an enthusiasm about education that she had never known before, and she now plans to continue studying for her degree.
Indasky Boa’s graduation address
The program is still new; Indasky is only the second person to get a certificate. Chris Gibson, Associate VP of Educational Technology at the college, said that the program, in which students take all degree and certificate courses entirely in Second Life, is stressing creating a quality program over initially enrolling large number of students.
The projects in pictures shown in this article were all created by four students working together: IndaSky Boa, who lives in Montana and was self-taught in computers but felt a need for classroom instruction to learn design; Hector Ohmai, a resident of Mexico who is also a student at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Teiko Moxi, a stay-at-home mom in San Antonio Texas; and Ushao Murakami, who dropped out of college ten years ago and who has lived with Teiko for nine years after meeting online. (These are the students’ avatar names).
A common experience that all four students have experienced is that other people think it’s an easy program because their classes are conducted entirely in Second Life, but the students said it really is just the opposite. They are working much harder than they would in a traditional face-to-face class. Indasky said, "It’s cool, but it’s a lot of work!"
Kiosk created by vTSTC students
The projects they’ve been working on are new ways to promote vTSTC, and include:
- An informational kiosk, shown on the left;
- Redesigning the vTSTC website;
- A wearable virtual student desk, complete with a laptop computer that gives information about the college;
- A virtual billboard
- A story board that tells about vTSTC from a student perspective.
For more information about Texas State Technical College’s program in Second Life, visit the vTSTC website, v.tstc.edu.