Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Counseling

Second Life: Implications for Counselor Education

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Counseling

Second Life: Implications for Counselor Education

Article excerpt

Virtual world technology offers an environment for web-based learning, e-business, web play, and course management (i.e. vehicle for class discussions) (Childress & Braswell, 2006; Gaimster, 2007). Virtual world technology has also been commonly associated with video games like SIMS, Everquest and for social community web pages like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and MySpace (Skiba, 2007). In addition, virtual world technology offers many opportunities for students in higher education to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom. Because virtual world software offers a continuous, multiplayer, 3-D environment, it provides students opportunities for research and experiments (Jencius, 2009; Skiba, 2007). Virtual worlds are simulated environments in which users interact as graphic avatars. Second Life (SL) is one of the most currently recognized public virtual worlds (Jencius, 2009). The purpose of this article is to illustrate the potential of SL for programs that facilitate counselor education, training and preparation.

What is SL actually? SL is web-based software developed by Linden Research, Inc. (Linden Lab), a company located in California. SL was launched in 2003 (Bell, Pope, & Peters, 2008; Descy, 2008; Geck, 2008; Jencius, 2009; Skiba, 2007). SL was created for Massive Multiplayer online gaming (MMOG). SL is a huge online computer simulated environment that allows a person to enter as a resident, move around, and interact with other residents known as avatars. The three dimensional virtual world is designed, built and owned by residents (Bell, Pope, & Peters, 2008; Jencius, 2009; Kelton, 2008; Skiba, 2007). Avatars are computerized three dimensional characters that interact within SL (Liao, 2008). Thus, a resident can develop a personality with real life characteristics in SL (Bessiere, Fleming, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007; Descy, 2008).

Second Life can also be used for training within the environment (Trotter, 2008). SL is becoming a widely used tool for communication and for gaining (real world) simulated virtual experience (Goral, 2008; Guest, 2007). Virtual world technology such as SL serves a global audience offering many languages without communication boundaries (Bell, Pope, & Peters, 2008). Although English is the official language of SL, there are areas for groups who speak Chinese, French, German, and Japanese. SL has been used recently as an educational tool, as a virtual library, for psychology and medical (nursing) education, and professional recruitment (Descy, 2008; Olsen, 2000).

Second Life provides opportunities for students in higher education to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom. Because of the increase in use of computer technology over the past years in higher education, the number of distance education offerings, online classes and virtual campuses is growing (Foster, 2007; Goral, 2008; Harasim, 2000; Robbins-Bell, 2008; Trotter, 2008). As early as 2005, courses on many college campuses have been incorporating SL (Childress & Braswell, 2006). Currently, SL has a program for educators to use in their classes; designed specifically for higher education (Childress & Braswell, 2006). Over thirteen million members, including colleges and universities (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, Pepperdine, Drexel, Ball State, and Stanford) navigate through and inhabit the SL community. Recently, as many as 250 universities and colleges have designed virtual campuses within Second Life (Goral, 2008). Likewise, many universities (e.g., Pepperdine and Princeton) are working within the virtual world of SL to promote technological education and are on the Second Life education listserve known as SLED (Descy, 2008). According to Trotter (2008), the higher education community is thriving in the SL virtual world. Many educational institutions are creating campuses in SL to enhance the students' learning experiences (Bugeja, 2008; Descy, 2008; Foster, 2007). …

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