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« What Can We Learn from “Voices from the New American Schoolhouse” Project?

Fascinating conversations taking place in San Francisco this week about the growing trend of higher education campuses building classroom space in the virtual world of Second Life. Why the trend? Interestingly, higher education leaders are looking for innovative alternatives as they sense over-crowded classrooms and a rising trend in telecommuting students:

If you want to know what higher education will look like in a few years, you might ask Charles Reed, chancellor of the largest four-year university system in the United States.

As head of the California State University system–with 23 campuses, 46,000 employees and more than 400,000 students–Reed says he’s worried about classroom space in the future because of, among other reasons, expanding enrollment.

Consequently, Reed said he envisions students becoming more like telecommuters. They might meet with faculty and peers one day a week on campus, and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloaded information the rest of the week to complete coursework.

“It’s not an either-or thing. We need the ‘high touch,’ but we need the high tech at the same time,” Reed said Tuesday at Sun Microsystem’s Worldwide Education and Research Conference here.

BTW, are you familiar with how many universities/colleges have already created a virtual presence in Second Life? You might be stunned:

Virtual worlds are already beginning to change higher education, according to several educators.

For example, more than 70 universities have built island campuses in Second Life, according to Stuart Sim, CTO and chief architect of Moodlerooms, which builds structures in virtual worlds and offers course management software. Sim said his company is currently developing tools to help universities better manage students and courses delivered in Second Life. That way, universities can have an application to control adding or removing a student avatar to the island campus, he said. The project is dubbed

Why are they making such an investment? Just to seem cutting-edge?

Gerri Sinclair, executive director of the master’s degree program for digital media at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver, Canada, said her group is building a Second Life virtual campus alongside its physical one. “Our students are digital natives, and they don’t want to be reached in traditional ways. So we’re creating a virtual campus as we’re building our real campus,” Sinclair said.

Seems like we’ve only begun to see the potential in this profound merger of F2F classrooms and their virtual siblings. Your thoughts?

If you’re unfamiliar with Second Life and its potential role for education (especially higher education), you may want to consider a Second Life for Higher Education wiki-tutorial that is provided by a group of educators who are integrating the virtual and real teaching spaces. And obviously this may be a great chance to look more closely at the Harvard Law course entitled “Cyber One” that exists simultaneously as a real course with a virtual component of every detail in Second Life as well.

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