This nascent trend is both a technological and a socio-cultural issue. Second life has become an instant phenomenon among children and techno savvy and “trend setting” adults. http://secondlife.com/
The jury is out as to whether 2nd life will take off in the adult world. Many adults have partners, children and lots of real world stuff to worry about and do not have the time to spend on this format. A colleague of mine jokingly said that “second life is for people who don’t have a first life”. On the other hand Business leaders such as Sir Paul Judge believe that online collaboration could yield significantly large productivity benefits.
Technological innovation does fascinate the human race. We have seen the explosion of Twitter which witnessed its tipping point when an aeroplane made that incredible landing on the Hudson River. A passer by captured the moment and “twittered” it around the world before the media were on the scene. The blue touch paper of mass adoption was ignited and adult users began to sky rocket. However there has been a bit of a backlash as “tweeny” (teens and twenties) users have dropped. Why is this you may ask? Well if you have teenage children you should know better than to ask that.
In terms of education, research by Gartner Group published in the Times Higher Education (THES) has shown that 2nd life has reached its peak and is about to plunge into a “trough of disillusionment”. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=407839&c=1
Many leading educators do see virtual worlds as a great tool for facilitating distance learning or online teaching but it can never be an effective substitute for face to face teaching. The danger is the tail could wag the dog and that cash strapped universities begin to adopt web 2.0 technologies as a means of offering lower cost education by compromising their offering. Credit crunched students may find this offering appealing so I am not dismissing it. This could potentially accelerate the outcome of stratified tuition fees as face to face education in smaller class sizes becomes a luxury that some universities can no longer afford.
I am not a techno phobe and I was involved in writing the UKs first on line degree programme and have ran an online unit since 2003. I am passionate about blended learning which enhances the student experience.
Have a look at these two impressive examples of blended learning. The first video features Mike Wesch, an award winning educator from Kansas.
The second is the late Randy Pausch, a truly inspiring lecture. If you can't watch the full lecture you will find a cut down version on youtube.
Second life and other web 2.0 technologies could have a huge cultural impact on all walks of life including home life, business life and student life. Do you lead a 2nd life?