Second Life U

College instructors are conducting classes in the virtual world of Second Life, reports USA Today.

Second Life is a four-year-old virtual world owned by Linden Labs. Users create avatars — images of characters they can use to move around and interact with other users.

More than 300 universities, including Harvard and Duke, use Second Life as an educational tool, says Claudia L’Amoreaux of Linden Labs. Some educators conduct entire distance-learning courses there; others supplement classes.

Jean-Claude Bradley, chemistry professor and e-learning coordinator at Drexel University, offers Second Life as a study tool. Only 10 of his 200 organic chemistry students used Second Life more than once last spring.

“This is a new way to interact with me and each other,” he says. “I can show them molecules in three dimensions. We can walk around the molecule and discuss it.”

None of the examples in the story sound particularly compelling — do you need a fantasy island to show a 3-D molecule? — but then I’m not into avatars.

About Joanne


  1. It seems to me that Second Life might be a good place to hold academic conferences. I’m unable to physically attend conferences in my field, because of both financial and life circumstances. I’d love to be able to attend a conference in virtual reality.

  2. WH, indeed Second Life is a very good environment to hold conferences. I’m running one on August 20, 2007 at noon ET on Tools for Open Science. You are welcome to join us.