Designing learning activities in Second Life for student engagement

Minocha, Shailey and Reeves, Ahmad (2009). Designing learning activities in Second Life for student engagement. In: The 4th and FINAL Open CETL Conference, The CETLs: Celebrating Teaching and Learning, 15-16 Dec 2009, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.


Three-dimensional virtual worlds are multimedia, simulated environments, often managed over the Web, which users can ‘inhabit’ and interact via their own graphical, humanoid, self-representations known as avatars. 3D virtual worlds are being used in many applications: education/training, gaming, social networking, marketing and commerce. Second Life ( is the most widely used 3D virtual world in education. Our research as well as experiences on two courses at the Open University has shown that it can be very challenging for an educator to design and conduct course-related learning activities in Second Life. There is currently little (formal) guidance for educators to assist them with the design and facilitation of learning activities. Most Second Life teaching and learning initiatives are personal initiatives in the sense that an educator or a team of educators have realised the potential of 3D virtual worlds in education and have adopted Second Life on some of their pedagogical activities in conjunction with other 2D tools (eg blogs and wikis) or the course’s virtual learning environment (VLE).

For designing learning activities in Second Life, some of the questions that an educator or instructional designer may face are: How should Second Life activities be situated within the course to engage learners? How should the activities be designed to implicitly impart Second Life training and skills-development to students for using the Second Life software and for interacting within the Second Life environment? Is there a relationship between design of activities and design of 3D learning spaces in Second Life?

In this paper, we report the results of a study in which we conducted semi-structured interviews and focus groups with Second Life educators, designers and students. Based on this empirical research, we have derived design guidelines for educators and designers who are involved in designing learning activities in SL. In our presentation, we will specifically focus on the relationship between the design of activities and design of learning spaces within Second Life, and the corresponding effects on student experience and learning. We will discuss vignettes from the data to illustrate the design guidelines. We hope that our presentation will provide useful guidance and triggers for ideas to educators and designers who are planning to set up learning activities and spaces in Second Life.

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