UT Systems bought land on Second Life for all the UT colleges. SL is the largest of the virtual worlds. We have been getting ready to have faculty use it for teaching however we are having challenges. (We don't say problems in PC educational writing. We are challenged; not defeated.)
"what are the challenges?" You ask. There are plenty. However some of us veteran folks could easily just rerun the conversations of the mid 1990's about the Internet.
1. The pornographers are on with a vengeance.
2. Computers are too slow.
3. The learning curve is high but zooms down.
4. Students don't have the right computers.
5. People over 30 won't get on.
Sound familiar? I remember interviewing a librarian in 2000 who said most of her time was spent making sure students were not accessing porno sights. She was exhausted running around in a computer room of 50 computers.
But you know, we figured it all out.
But lets look at what we learned from the introduction of the Internet that will help us as new technologies come in.
1. The pornographers need to be put in their own section. Check.
2. Some computers are too slow, but in a year or so they will begin to match each other...better software and computers better designed for virtual worlds.
3. Develop patience and organize the early adopters to become mentors to the next group.
4. Make sure open labs have some computers students can use that have the software. And, no matter what, the industry will be like hot dog buns and hot dogs; made so you always have to buy more to try and even things out.
5. That is a laugh.
At UTB/TSC we are building a support system for new adopters in technology and those that want to experiment (do research) with new methodologies and tools for learning. SL is just one product that shows promise for learning.
I also remember the bets that were if Amazon could make it. "Who would buy a book on line over going to the neighborhood book store?" And E-bay. "Who would buy something on line when they could go to their local store and see it before they purchased it?" Soothsayers obviously never tried to get a copy of SL Scripts or Cincinnati Chili at their neighborhood shops.
Now for those that say Second Life will never catch on should remember what was said about talkies. "Who would ever want to watch a movie and hear the talk at the same time?
Meanwhile here is an interesting article. Let Faculty Off the Hook