Istanbul University was founded in 1453, over 550 years later it’s still going strong with over 200,000 students and as we can see in episode 44 of The Drax Files : World Makers, the University also has a presence in the digital virtual world of Second Life. I will embed the video at the end of this post.
This episode demonstrates how virtual worlds can be used in education and in this episode we see how Professors at Istanbul University are using Second Life for subjects such as English Grammar, Maths, climate change and more with storytelling, machinima and gamification very much involved in the teaching process.
There are some other very interesting angles to virtual world usage though, with Professor Tuncer Can recounting how one student, whom he had never heard from before, contributing inside the Second Life environment because, in part, he didn’t feel the immediacy of other people looking at him in a physical classroom environment.
Professor Irfan Simsek however, points out that although in Second Life the classroom environment is digitial, he feels it’s important for the virtual classroom to look and therefore feel like a physical classroom.
There’s also a strong theme of collaboration at the heart of the teaching techniques discussed in this episode and that’s something that virtual worlds can definitely deliver on.
We also see some of the concepts that give virtual worlds reach, with potential students who aren’t based in Istanbul being able to take a look at the virtual campus and being able to talk in a virtual space with other students and staff.
The current hot topic is virtual reality, not virtual worlds but Second Life works for teaching at the moment, whereas VR experiences are in their infancy and the hardware required can be quite expensive when you’re talking about fitting out even a couple of classes.
We also see in this episode how the virtual world can be utilised to bring certain aspects of a city to a digital environment, with Draxtor pointing out that walking to the top of the rectory tower is far easier in Second Life than it is in Istanbul itself! Exercise is good for you folks, walk to the top of the real tower if you can.
This is another excellent episode of The Drax Files that exemplifies that virtual worlds can be used for education, and that virtual worlds at this moment in time, are still ahead of VR alternatives in terms of viable use cases for education, although we should expect that to change in the coming years as costs and teaching tools become cheaper and more widespread.
As things stand though, the answer to “What Happened To Second Life?” is still very much that it’s alive, well and exemplifying many different use cases, use cases that VR will need to learn from if VR really wants to grow as a medium.