Academic Advising in Second Life

Today, many colleges and universities are building their virtual campuses in Second Life. They are exploring the use of virtual worlds for the delivery of a wide range of courses, professional development activities, educational and social events.  Like many colleges and universities, Penn State World Campus has built an island in Second Life for their online learners to connect with Penn State and each other outside of their courses.  It is interesting to learn that The Pennsylvania State University is taking a step further.  Academic advisers at Penn State World Campus are now required to be available for meetings with students in the virtual world each week.  While Penn State students on the real campus get to meet with their advisers face to face, online Penn State students who never set foot on Penn State campus can now do almost exact same thing.

With Second Life, student can visit Penn State anytime no matter where they live.  Students can meet with their academic advisers in Second Life in the Advising Center on PSU World Campus Island for walk-in appointments or by appointment in Second Life.  I think this is one of many great examples of using emerging technologies in education.  I expect that more colleges and universities will follow the lead of Penn State by offering academic advising in Second Life to their students.

Adcademic Advising at PSU World Campus

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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8 Responses to Academic Advising in Second Life

  1. Christine Mark says:

    What a great opportunity for distance education students—and residents too, I suppose—to be able to meet with an advisor without having to travel to a university campus. Too often students who are in online programs or taking distance courses cannot travel to campus, and thus are left to fend for themselves. Virtual worlds like Second Life offer a touch or personalization from a distance. I had not seen anything specifically about advising, but this would be a perfect application for this technology. Even the image shown with the avatars gathered promotes a sense of invitation and personalization that would be lacking from a listing of names on the Penn State website.

    Playing Devil’s advocate, using virtual world technology assumes a certain level of technological expertise and a certain level of technology availability, so a university could never rely on this entirely. That said, having a virtual presence as a part of a suite of personalization tools can only enhance the experiences of distance learners. What if learners lacking both of the above try the new approach and get frustrated? Will this cause them to dislike that particular institution? Only the future will tell if this type of advising will be effective.

    The entire spectrum of virtual environments for advising, teaching, administration, etc., will open up higher education to a yet untold number of people for whom traditional distance education has not been successful. In this case, the ‘presence’ of the advisor, albeit in avatar form, will lend a ‘face’ to the advising process. Too many distance students learn and progress in isolation. Virtual worlds hold great promise for them to interact with classmates and teachers they can actually ‘see’.

  2. davidsmora says:

    I believe Pennsylvania State University’s use of Second Life for academic advising purposes is very innovative. Specifically, I think advising students in a virtual environment like Second Like allows for a more personal and effective experience. While online students have traditionally been advised through email or by telephone, this new technology could make those methods obsolete. For example, I would argue that advising in Second Life saves time. An online student who participates in advisement through e-mail (asynchronous communication) will have to wait an unspecified amount of time (e.g. a few hours, a day, several days or more) for his adviser to reply back to him. On the other hand, conducting advisement in Second Life allows the student and advisor to converse in real time. Second Life’s audio chat feature also adds another dimension to the advisement process. While some may argue that advisement by telephone is fundamentally equal to advisement via Second Life, the combination of voice communication with written communication in a virtual environment makes Second Life more personal and engaging.

    While Second Life is a wonderful tool for both educators and students (e.g. advisement, class lectures, research, etc.), it is far from perfect. Advisement in Second Life could be problematic for students who have older models of computers or slow Internet connections. Since Second Life is very graphic intensive, students with slow Internet connections (e.g. dial-up) could experience technical difficulties navigating the virtual world. Additionally, students who own older computers may not be able to run the software. Again, it is also important to note that Second Life is not error proof. Without warning, the virtual world could shut down due to error, outage or perhaps even malicious attacks. Another issue that could plague advisement in Second Life is a student’s lack of knowledge/familiarity with the program. While it is assumed that most online students have a basic level of computer literacy, Second Life could intimidate a novice online student.

    Overall, I think the benefits of using Second Life as an advisement tool outweigh the negatives. For example, many of Second Life’s negatives could be easily rectified. If several online students do not possess adequate knowledge of Second Life, university/college personnel could create a basic tutorial that would help transition them into the virtual world. Also, the university could minimize performance issues (such as slow computers and slow Internet speeds) by establishing technology standards for online students. While this move may seem controversial to some, it would be beneficial for the student in the long run. In today’s world, if you don’t keep up with technology, you are left behind. In my opinion, advising online students in Second Life is a modern practice that should be implemented by more colleges and universities in the future.

  3. Donna Parker says:

    Approximately one year ago, I attended a workshop on Second Life and was blown away. The presenter actually took us live using his avatar through the use of Second Life. As I look back, it took me a while to really comprehend the use of Second Life in an academic environment. I had to spend time reflecting on the workshop to fully appreciate this technology. The presentation immediately reminded me of the computer game my son used to play called Sim City. I really didn’t mind his playing this game because after I watched it, I realized how much critical thinking was involved. You had to create a city, with an infrastructure, government, housing, banking, etc. Seeing how this has evolved into Second Life is simply amazing. Second Life gives a whole new meaning to distance learning. Using Second Life for advising or teaching can remove the barriers of online learning such as feeling isolated at times. Students actually get opportunities for live interaction with the instructor and other students. One drawback I see is that some students could get carried away and try to actually live through an avatar. Also, there are some students who do not like the environment created by Second Life. As this technology evolves, I feel like it will become an amazing program for students not only for classes but for advisement as well. Penn State has really shown how resourceful Second Life can be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you didn’t have to stand in line for advisement or registration?

  4. Wow! I’d never considered a topic such as academic advising for use in Second Life, but it is a great, innovative idea! Penn State is definitely taking it “one step further” by offering this free service to their distance education students. From personal experience, I know how difficult it can be to “connect” with professors and fellow students when you live a considerable distance away. This use of Second Life has limitless potential. Students who are a good distance away from their college campus can log in and “meet” their advisor virtually, just with a few clicks of the mouse! It is amazing what technology has provided us the opportunity to do—especially these “free” methods! With present budget constraints, I feel this technology will become increasingly popular because of its minimal cost and ability to literally reach people all over the world!

    In the future, I believe this type of virtual reality will emerge with new, cost-effective ways to offer professional development, online courses, and seminars/educational/social events through virtual college campuses. In an undergraduate study I presented a couple years ago, I discovered that large companies such as IBM are now offering their new employee orientation via Second Life. This has to be a definite money-saver for the company, as they hold about one a quarter for new, incoming employees all over the country (and world)!

    These types of tools, in my opinion, definitely have a great potential to change the way we interact, socialize, and learn! It is truly amazing the progress we have made in educational technology over the past decade, and I am eager to see the progresses we will make over the next decade or so. I have a feeling that this technology has the capability to blow our minds!

  5. Medyumlar says:

    Approximately one year ago, I attended a workshop on Second Life and was blown away. The presenter actually took us live using his avatar through the use of Second Life. As I look back, it took me a while to really comprehend the use of Second Life in an academic environment. I had to spend time reflecting on the workshop to fully appreciate this technology. The presentation immediately reminded me of the computer game my son used to play called Sim City. I really didn’t mind his playing this game because after I watched it, I realized how much critical thinking was involved. You had to create a city, with an infrastructure, government, housing, banking, etc. Seeing how this has evolved into Second Life is simply amazing. Second Life gives a whole new meaning to distance learning. Using Second Life for advising or teaching can remove the barriers of online learning such as feeling isolated at times. Students actually get opportunities for live interaction with the instructor and other students. One drawback I see is that some students could get carried away and try to actually live through an avatar. Also, there are some students who do not like the environment created by Second Life. As this technology evolves, I feel like it will become an amazing program for students not only for classes but for advisement as well. Penn State has really shown how resourceful Second Life can be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you didn’t have to stand in line for advisement or registration?

  6. 奕嬛 says:

    由學校主導提倡而使全體動員來參與,共同營造虛擬校園,使用自家的電腦與網路便可即時連線溝通,可縮短因往返學校路程的奔波時間,提升其學習效果;不但可與師長&同儕online互動往來,也可藉此認識其他同校的師生,甚至擴大到他校或社區中的夥伴,延展自己的人際網絡;上傳自己的作業/作品,培養主動積極的學習態度與責任感,並同時學會欣賞與了解他人的成果展示。
    Second Life成為一個新的學習管道,也樂於見到它能夠隨著時間更加地蓬勃發展,讓更多的人參與其中;但是施行於教學現場時,不見得每位學生都能夠很快地就能夠適應,所以一開始必須要與學生約定遵守的要點,並輔導新手熟練此系統,以期達到最佳的教學效果。

  7. 奕嬛 says:

    由學校主導提倡而使全體動員來參與,共同營造虛擬校園,使用自家的電腦與網路便可即時連線溝通,可縮短因往返學校路程的奔波時間,提升其學習效果;不但可與師長&同儕online互動往來,也可藉此認識其他同校的師生,甚至擴大到他校或社區中的夥伴,延展自己的人際網絡;上傳自己的作業/作品,培養主動積極的學習態度與責任感,並同時學會欣賞與了解他人的成果展示。
    Second Life成為一個新的學習管道,也樂於見到它能夠隨著時間更加地蓬勃發展,讓更多的人參與其中;但是施行於教學現場時,不見得每位學生都能夠很快地就能夠適應,所以一開始必須要與學生約定遵守的要點,並輔導新手熟練此系統,以期達到最佳的教學效果。

  8. Peter Gen says:

    我在大約2006年的一篇文章中看到第二人生這個虛擬世界的應用程式,當初我看的那篇文章是在探討第二人生中的情色應用。當然,當一個網路程式可以達到它原始設計外的其他功能,這個程式便能成就偉大的應用。
    現今,許多學校應用第二人生在教育上,由於一切建立在網路中,相關的一切東西是由程式碼所衍生出來的,程式碼不像實際人生中的物品,是要錢的。藉由少數擁有技術的設計者,便能享有在網路世界中的各種物品。
    藉著網際網路,任何人只要有電腦,便能進入第二人生的世界中,由於不受地域的限制,也使得這套軟體的應用更是無遠弗屆,更方便應用。

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