Academic Librarians in Second Life

By Cote, Denise; Kraemer, Beth et al. | Journal of Library Innovation, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Academic Librarians in Second Life


Cote, Denise, Kraemer, Beth, Nahl, Diane, Ashford, Robin, Journal of Library Innovation


Abstract

The multi-user virtual world Second Life is an online software platform that allows users to jointly explore realistic three-dimensional environments via avatar characters, communicate via voice and text chat, and collaborate using shared creation tools. Librarians and educators have been developing academic content and services in Second Life for use with students and other constituency groups since 2005. This study surveyed academic librarians working in Second Life to discover their perceptions of virtual world environments for teaching and learning and to gauge the impact of this technology on their work with faculty and students. Sixty-two librarians provided details on various aspects of their professional involvement in Second Life. Findings show that librarians from every type of academic institution, at all levels of advancement, and in every department participate in this virtual world. Results include details of roles and functions, as well as perceived benefits and challenges. Because many adolescents and teenagers worldwide are currently active virtual world participants, academic librarians in Second Life view virtual world technology as a significant near-future educational trend.

Second Life (SL) is a public 3-D virtual world used for social interaction, commerce, ed-ucation and entertainment (http://secondlife.com). Second Life and other Multi-User Vir-tual Environment (MUVE) applications have been called the 3-D web or the immersive web, and have been described as the next stage of development of the World Wide Web (Alpcan, Bauckhage, & Kotsovinos, 2007). These applications represent a power-ful new platform for communication and information-sharing. In Second Life in particular, all content in the application is user-built and owned, making Second Life well suited for educational use. As frequently described in the literature, educators can use Second Life as a real-time communication tool for distance education and can create unique, persistent educational environments and experiences that students and others can ex-plore. Virtual world applications like Second Life give users the opportunity to participate in collaborative online experiences in three dimensional environments using avatar characters, voice and text chat, and dynamic context creation tools.

Second Life users are typically referred to as "residents". The Second Life virtual world environment is similar in look and feel to some video games. A user guides an avatar through the environment using keyboard or mouse controls. Avatars can walk or fly within a SL location or teleport instantly between locations. The SL client includes a search utility to help users find locations of interest. Content creators may include a Se-cond Life URL (SLURL) on a web page, which acts as a teleport link. Individual users can also save "landmarks" which, like website bookmarks, allow a user to easily return to a favorite location. Objects within the virtual world can be scripted to be interactive, allowing users to click on or approach an object to receive information or otherwise in-teract with the environment (e.g., sit on a chair). Users can interact with each other us-ing text chat, voice communication or by exchanging information with objects like "Note Cards", which are similar to plain text files. The environments created in Second Life can be highly realistic or other-worldly. While it can take time to become familiar with maneuvering in the virtual world, experienced users often become very comfortable navigating and communicating in this environment. Inventive avatars and settings be-come engaging rather than distracting. Video is an effective tool for conveying the "feel-ing" of Second Life to someone who has not experienced this kind of technology before. There are a number of good video introductions to Second Life available on the web.1

Second Life is one of several hundred virtual world (VW) applications. KZero, a re-search firm based in the United Kingdom that focuses on virtual worlds, has forecast that VWs will continue to grow and develop with approximately 900 such platforms available to the public by 2012, a prediction that builds on the fact that by the end of the second quarter of 2011 there were 1. …

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