So there I was, utterly convinced that Second Life was inhabited by a few really strange people. Then, I stumbled across another news article about a Second Life user, Anshe Chung. Chung might possibly fall into this category of 'really strange people', but she was smart -- and very, very wealthy. Chung's avatar graced the cover of Business Week magazine as a result of becoming Second Life's first millionaire in just two and a half years after joining Second Life. Essentially, Chung saw an opportunity in selling real estate in this virtual world. She received payment in the form of linden dollars, Second Life's own virtual currency, and then was able to convert it to actual, spendable money. Maybe Second Life users weren't so strange after all...
The articles Case Western Reserve University and Second Life Building a Private Virtual World for University and Case Western Announces Use of Private Second Life illustrate how Case Western Reserve University has successfully integrated Second Life into their own course curriculum. In 2007, CWRU built a near-replica of the Universities’ campus and buildings in Second Life. Since 2007, professors have used Second Life as a tool to engage students and give them virtual practice, without fear for failure. For example, psychology students can use Second Life to interview faux patients and diagnose their condition based on speech, facial expressions, and body language. Furthermore, Spanish students are often encouraged to visit Second Life to converse with native Spanish speakers in this virtual realm.
Recently, CWRU, with the help of Linden Labs, announced the use of a private Second Life. The CWRU virtual campus is now protected by firewalls to ensure that the information available to Case Western is totally protected. Matters of confidentiality are extremely significant for institutions specializing in the medical field.
While the Case Western articles talk mostly about using Second Life for the use of medical students, I could see Second Life as a useful tool for any university, even one's with a very small presence of medical majors. Second Life could be a great tool for engaging business students in mock business conferences, sales, or other events. Second Life could also be used by fine arts students as a platform to display artwork that can be openly critiqued by other students. The colleges of digital media could certainly make use of this virtual world as well by contributing to the virtual campus. Furthermore, students might have greater access to resources like the Career Center or Academic Advising, which almost require students to meet in person with these experts. Finally, any student that has ever been in a group project would surely enjoy the opportunity to not have to coordinate locations and availability for group meetings.
I think a tool like Second Life could be a worthwhile means towards success. It offers easy access and a more personalized experience than typical campus and course connection sites. Furthermore, Second Life is interactive. It encourages students to collaborate and offer feedback to one another, as opposed to just doing individual assignments. My hesitation about Second Life involves matters of security and ease of use. I see no reason why Second Life wouldn’t be a success if those obstacles are properly tackled.