What is the Interactive Media Design program?
"It’s an online, four-course, post-baccalaureate certificate designed for students who want to change careers or expand their skill set. Students learn Web and graphic design, typography, simulation design,and social media and interactive design skills. Ultimately, they learn to author and publish Web sites. The program is five years old, and now has 14 students, many who are working professionals seeking to update and improve their job skills. All courses are taught, at least partially, in Second Life."
What is Second Life?
"Second Life is a online, three-dimensional virtual environment. It’s used by organizations such as CISCO, Nokia, Kraft, Wells Fargo, IBM, Intel, Time Warner, Walt Disney and the U.S. Army for virtual meetings, events, training, prototyping and simulation solutions that inspire innovation while reducing the cost and environmental impact of travel.
"Through Second Life, I’ve attended virtual conferences about technology with people from around the globe, all from my computer. Today, many universities—like Yale, MIT, Penn State and Harvard—are using Second Life as a venue for education."
How do you create an avatar?
"When you create your Second Life account you can choose from a dozen or so default avatars. This quick choice allows you to get into Second Life right away so you can start flying around and visiting interesting places. Once you’re in Second Life you can modify your avatar’s appearance, down to the smallest detail. Almost everyone wants to get their hair just right! Clothing, shoes and more can be purchased using ‘Lindens,’ the in-world currency, but you can also find a lot of ‘freebies’ in Second Life that allow you to outfit your avatar for no cost."
So what is it like to take a class in Second Life?
"As a class we can see each other’s avatars and communicate using text chat or voice chat. Headsets allow the students to converse with me in real-time even if we are not all standing in the same virtual location. We can wave, laugh, point and make other gestures. We use appropriate social behavior like facing each other when speaking, and saying ‘excuse me’ if we accidentally run into each other. The effect is quite interesting."
It definitely sounds like a fun, unique way to learn.
"We develop a sense of community in the virtual environment. Because the curriculum is focused on the techniques of building virtual objects, the class is often engaged in live demonstration and lecture. We share resources by dragging and dropping objects right onto our classmates’ avatars. We can hear each other’s voices as if we are on the phone; however, we are also moving in space around each other and working together. The learning experience is highly collaborative."