Learning Environment: As an alternative learning environment, it provides:
- an alternative and potentially neutral space away from the 'traditional' classroom, which can be socially inclusive for those learners which the formal establishment has woefully failed.
- enables real time interactions and global alliances which are not constrained by traditional 'location' based environments.
- In 20 years time, we will laugh at what we now call a VLE [Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle etc etc] as being very quaint and 2D
Learning & Teaching Dynamic
- Technical specifications for running SL are still very high for many users to effectively use SL to support learning and teaching. Therefore, there is a risk of supporting the 'digital divide' - those that have - and those that have not.
- E-safety - this is more about education that setting up yet more barriers [which I.T. departments revel in "How can we make it not happen"!] - but for organisations it is still a real issue from firewalls to learner safety.
- Connectivity - not all places have a decent broadband connection
Evidence and Evaluation
- I would very much doubt there is much robust [robust = key word] evidence yet that virtual worlds DO support learner retention, achievement or attainment. However, I also have no doubt that it is only a matter of time before that starts to filter through. The fact that the community is now over 6.2 million worldwide and at any one time over 20k are in-world suggests that something is good - and it isn't just sex!
- Certainly the UK, Educational inspectors through OfSTED just couldn't cope with Second Life - they can barely cope with the concept of email! Therefore, there will continue being a struggle using this technology as inspection is a major driver [along with funding]