Avatar U

With the help of Second Life, students’ avatars can take online classes in a digital world. Sixty schools and universities are holding classes in Second Life’s world, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

For the first time this fall, a Harvard University class is meeting on its own “Berkman Island” within Second Life (SL). “Avatars,” visual images that represent the students and teachers, gather in an “outdoor” amphitheater, head inside a virtual replica of Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall, and travel to complete assignments all over the digital world.

. . . Some 90 Harvard law and extension school students taking the course, called “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion,” can receive real college credit. But anyone on earth with a computer connection can also take the course for free. Students are participating from as far away as South Korea and China.

The avatars help stimulate the sense that real people are talking to each other in a classroom, advocates say.

Non-students also visit Second Life.

In SL, residents can set up businesses, buy land, build structures, or go to clubs or concerts to hang out and meet others. They can be as industrious or as lazy as they wish. Entering SL and looking around is free, but buying things like fancy clothes for your avatar or other “in world” possessions cost Linden dollars. One US dollar buys about 280 Linden dollars.

. . . Also inside SL, real-world businesses experiment with new business models, computer science students run new programs while classmates and others watch, and chemistry students walk around and discuss a giant model of a molecule they’ve built. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is creating simulations inside SL to teach the public about tsunamis and other phenomena. A federally funded bioterrorism-preparedness project, Play2Train, has built its own virtual town and hospital.

Ball State has bought SL “land” to build a campus, which features a tiki bar, lounge, coffee shop and dorms.

The whole thing reminds me of the metaverse in Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

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  1. Everything old is new again. We were doing this with students in the 80s. They were then called MUDs and MOOs.