Magazine article University Business

Testing the Virtual Waters

Magazine article University Business

Testing the Virtual Waters

Article excerpt

THE CLASSROOM MIGHT BE VISITED by short green aliens or sword-wielding samurai that sometimes float above the action, but no one bats an eye. What sounds like a science fiction nightmare is actually an English Composition class at Ball State University (Ind.), but with a twist. It takes place in the "virtual world" of SecondLife, a shared online community where users, who often assume unusual physical appearances, interact with others and participate in various functions of SecondLife society.

Sarah Robbins, known in SecondLife as Intellagirl, has been leading the class since August, teaching in the real world one day and in SecondLife the next.

"I won't deny that there is a learning curve that has to be overcome to teaching inside SecondLife, but the payoff is well worth the effort," Robbins says. "I've never seen a class as enthusiastic, excited, or engaged as the one I'm teaching this semester."

How can a serious subject be taught to a class of giant KoolAid pitchers and exotic winged creatures? …

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