Much has been said though little published about the high learning curve in Second Life. In a research study I wrote last year, Second Life an Interactive Qualitative Analysis, students reported a very high learning curve in SL. In fact, the IQA systems map of the affinities reported Anger as a primary outcome of the student Second Life experience. Along with Anger, interface difficulties and technical difficulties were secondary drivers within the system.
The student experience in this particular case was heavily influenced by the instructional design of the course, the lack of Second Life experience by the instructor, and the terribly erratic Second Life crashes and downloads from the Fall of 2006. The students in this undergraduate English course were indeed angry about their experiences in SL. Many did not see the connection between Second Life and their curriculum and when students would ask for help, their instructor and IT support staff did not have the expertise to assist them. Students were also asked to build objects way beyond their capabilities thus leading to the belief that Second life has a “high learning curve”.
I receive frequent email inquiries about Second Life an Interactive Qualitative Analysis, most being about the high learning curve in Second Life. Seems like this paper has become one of the sources of the Second Life high learning curve literature. Yes, students reported a high learning in their Second Life user experience. The data from this class is a snapshot of the student experience in Second Life during the Fall of 2006. It isn’t a definitive statement about every Second Life student experience in SL, though many valuable lessons can be learned from this particular Second Life implementation. In fact, many of the lessons learned from the year long study can be found in a Sociotechnical Analysis of Second Life, a paper focusing on the administrative side of supporting a Second Life implementation at a university. Which brings me to my point, Breaking the Second Life Learning Curve.
This semester I’m teaching a course called Working in Virtual Worlds. I have twenty undergrads and we meet Tuesday and Thursdays from 11-12:15. Tuesdays we meet face-to-face and Thursdays we meet in Second Life. I’m using ¼ sim as my classroom, I feel that is the minimum size needed for a course if you expect your students to build and host events. So what does my classroom look like? My classroom for the first part of the class has a large beach, five condo buildings, a movie theater, giant tennis balls, and skeet shooting. Students in my course have to choose a condo to live in, this is their space. To choose a condo, students were required to put their name on it. I didn’t give the students instructions on how to do this, they were challenged to figure it our for themselves. In this exercise, students learned how to import images, how to work with textures, how to build signs, to rotate objects, and how to control the XYZ axis for positioning, and how to purchase Linden dollars. To reiterate, they learned this without any directions from me…. My next post I’ll share the many ways they accomplished this and their second assignment, which was to tell their life story in Second Life. In the first week of the semester, I got students to break the myth of the “high learning curve” of Second Life. Below is a picture of the Second Week of class, students giving tours of thier first build.