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Difficult, Dangerous, Impossible
Liz Thackray

This event took place on 21st November 2008 at 9:00am (09:00 GMT)

The use of Immersive Virtual Worlds (IVWs) for teaching and learning has been attracting increasing attention recently, and a number of universities already have a virtual presence in environments such as Second Life. Given the newness of the endeavour, there is little guidance on how to best make use of the affordances of virtual worlds, however, a number of educators are experimenting with these environments and beginning to share their experiences.

In this paper, we describe our own use of Second Life in a course designed to teach students about the creation of interactive learning environments. In our case, Second Life was used in conjunction with real life sessions as both a vehicle for teaching and learning, and also an environment in which our students could create learning experiences for others.
Moving into teaching and learning in Second Life requires crossing a number of boundaries in addition to the obvious boundary between the real and the virtual. In discussing this experience, we describe the boundaries encountered, and the opportunities they presented.

Finally, we analyse this experience from the perspective of the “Diffusion of Innovation” model and its extensions to educational contexts. Our analysis suggests that students and staff have different profiles in terms of their attitude to risk, and their focus on learning products or process, and that part of the learning experience involves helping students become aware of these characteristics, and allowing them to experiment with situations of greater risk.
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