Continuing from the last post:
One would have to ask: what is it that you want to aim for with e-learning? What is the shangri-la? I would posit that it's collaborative, self-directed learning, with the learner at least somewhat in charge of his or her own development, and working with other learners to achieve meaningful learning outcomes. The idea of using Second Life--or any virtual world, for that matter--to achieve this is that, sure enough, it is a collaborative environment, in that you can communicate and engage with other learners and the instructor (if there is one) in a somewhat meaningful way. In other words, it's geared towards having all the advantages of a physical classroom, except online. But in a virtual classroom, does this actually happen? I mean, do people actually engage? There is no doubt that people behave differently on the Internet, as this video highlights (Warning: contains some harmless ribald humour)
In other words--the communication with other learners is compromised. Or at least it could be. How is the teacher--or other learners--going to know how you respond to enlightenment? With no facial tics, body language, or plain-old-falling-asleep on your desk available to others, how will they direct learning and communication? And how will you? For on such things is true interaction based. So one would have to say that, if you're just going to sit around in a classroom on virtual chairs, looking at a virtual blackboard, being told stuff by a virtual teacher, and it's a compromised version of a real classroom at best, where's the benefit of that?
But perhaps I'm being harsh, because no doubt there is lots of learning going on in Second Life. Yet even the founder of the Second Life ICT library, himself a former teacher, has misgivings about it as an educational tool. Or at least, he feels creating a "Teacher's Tool" package would simply not work. He makes a very good point in which he posits that
most of the tools… as good as they are… only promote a teacher-centered, didactic form of teaching…
In other words, you're not taking advantage of technology to really open up dialogue between learners.
Also, my feeling is that, in the area of IT (which is the e-learning field in which I work), and especially in the area of coding and GUI-based instruction, that's when you're really making things hard for yourself. For this kind of instruction, people need to really use the tools, or practice the code, to accompany the instruction. It strikes me that a virtual classroom wouldn't be of much benefit in this case. And that for collaboration, message boards, blogs, newsgroups and the like are more useful. The point has been made that, in the area of e-learning, Second Life might be better as a Webex-type tool, supplementary to the real core instruction.
Just a thought though--and I'm willing to have my head turned by Second Life yet. It certainly is a-growin', and there's no doubt there's more to it than gimmickry.
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