Using Second Life as a
learning environment
Sheila Webber, Information
School, University of Sheffield
Prague, September 2010
“You posed
These are my
and tools do
you use for
Webber 2010
Blended learning
Face-to-Face + technology
Blended learning
• Choosing learning environments and tools that suit:
– Learners’ contexts and personal goals
– Learning goals for the class or activity
– Your own approach to teaching
• Opportunities – and constraints
The learners
Other people
A good review about blended learning:
Sharpe, R. et al (2006) The undergraduate
experience of blended e-learning: a review
of UK literature and practice. York: Higher
Education Academy.
Webber 2010
Virtual Learning
Second Life
Students: facebook,
texting, phoning
Webber 2010
My office
conversations in corridor or after classes
In the
computer Lab
Searching, evaluating, presenting, reflecting (first year students)
1. Find information
about experts’
conceptions of
information management
Select 5 items
Select one favourite
2. Post a message to
the board on MOLE
6. Groups
to rest of
6 Post ppt to your
5. Post ppt to class
discussion board
4. Create ppt with each
person’s favourite item
& compare strategies
3. Make a group of
4 people
Webber 2010
So the answer to:
“Which of them would you
recommend for information
literacy courses?”
“all of them! it depends what you want to do!”
Webber 2010
“Which edutainment would
you recommend for
information literacy courses?”
Webber 2010
• People will not be engaged and think it is “fun” just because it is
“a game”. Research shows:
– Gameplay, graphics and usability need to be good
– Players want to be challenged
– Different people like different games: issues of age gender,
language, culture etc. as well as other personal preferences
• Key motivations for playing video games include:
– Following your interest (e.g. Football, care for horses, guitar
– Doing things you can’t/ shouldn’t do in real life (e.g. killing, crashing
cars, being a princess)
– Competing and winning
Forthcoming article: Gumulak, S. and Webber, S. “: Playing video
games: Learning and information literacy”
Webber 2010
Some ideas
• Existing games
– Gamers do use information skills in games (searching, selecting and
applying information): get them to discuss that & build activities (e.g.
“teach someone else how to find and use that information for your
favourite game”)
– Researching & presenting the background to a favourite game
• Creating games
– Don’t make the games too simple or dull
– Aim for problem and puzzle solving (evaluating and combining
information), not just “find this information and you get a point”
– Use professional game engines to create your games (e.g. Neverwinter
Nights) so they don’t look amateurish
– Use mini-games to cover different aspects of information literacy
– Get learners to create games or puzzles for each other (learning by
creating/ teaching)
and face-to-face games may be easier to create than digital ones!
Nice examples of schools using games:
Second Life
Second Life (SL), a Virtual World (VW)
• VW = persistent, multiuser, avatars, networked
• 3-D VW world, owned by (& trademark of) Linden Lab
• Most things created by SL residents: SL fashion
designers, architects, bakers, animal makers ….
• Avatars- 3D representation of yourself – free to signup
and can live on freebies, but need Linden dollars if want
to own land, buy clothes etc.
• Need to download SL browser & have good broadband
connection & computer graphics card
• Communication through text chat, Voice and Instant
• 40-80,000 people online simultaneously
Webber , 2010
“Would you consider SL
an educational game?”
• SL is a world or environment, not just a game
– It does not have a specific goal
– It does not have a fixed set of characters
– It does not have any pre-set plot lines
• SL can be used for games: but you have to create the
goals, characters and plot!
– There are many role-playing areas e.g. Star Trek, Avatar
– You can have treasure hunts, set up special scenes to tell a
story, have simulations or role-plays etc.
– Or you can wander, shop, build, garden, chat ….
Webber 2010
First World War Poetry sim
“How SL has been used in teaching in the
academic world? Do you know some
courses (free accessible) which you would
recommend for an inspiration for us?”
Main subject areas
Health and medicine
Nursing training
Health and safety training •
Physics simulations e.g.
wind turbines
• Information science theory •
• Art and fashion
Legal training
Theatre and drama
Computer science
Crime scene training
Languages, esp. Spanish
Slide from presentation by John Kirriemuir, April 2010
Virtual Worlds in Education: Why?
Webber, 2010
Virtual Hajj
Uncle D story
quest on
FSU Holocaust
Muinjij native American island
Teeside Virtual
Dr. Steven Hornik / Robins Hermano
Kenneth Dixon School of Accounting
University of Central Florida
900+ accountancy students
Tour of the Testis
Biology learning &
Peter Miller/ Graham Mills
Liverpool University
Sheila Webber, 2010
“Why have you
chosen SL for your
“Why have you chosen SL for your
• Interacting with concepts in three dimensions:
encourage new ways of thinking about things
• Engaging with people internationally
• Students can pursue new research questions
• Students develop communication & technology skills
• Involvement of outside tutors
• Showcasing students' work in exhibitions
• Enabling students to meet up with tutors and peers
outside scheduled times safely & from remote
• I like it ;-)
Teaching in SL: my examples
• First year undergraduate core class (BSc Information
Management): student activities:
– Exhibiting on “7 Pillars of Information Literacy”
– Research interviews about information behaviour
• Masters-level option “Educational Informatics”: student
– Visits; including attending & reporting on a major SL
education conference
– Reflecting on how could be used for learning & teaching
Webber 2010
Webber 2010
Students present their conference highlights, in their
Second Life homes in the Educational Informatics village
“What is
to prepare
a course
in SL?”
Webber 2010
Some advice about SL teaching
• Attend SL events to learn what/ not to do
• Avoid putting learners on seats and just talking at them:
this is dull
• Help learners take their first steps in SL, so they gain
• As for all teaching: be clear about your aims & design
learning and teaching that enables you to achieve these
• Plan activities carefully, give clear instructions, but don’t
try to control people’s every move – let them fly!
Webber 2010
Some advice about SL teaching
• Only use SL if there is a sound pedagogical or service reason
– The three dimensional aspect helps learners to understand
concepts (e.g. creating giant molecules, Boolean logic in the
swimming pool, 3D model of information literacy)
– You want to use role play or simulation (medicine, business, law,
– It is valuable to get external people to see your students’ work
(e.g. art students)
– Your users are using SL, so it becomes just one more contact
– They are distance or part-time learners
– It enables you to include people with disabilities (e.g. physical
Webber 2010
What do librarians do in SL?
• Support staff, students & the public through virtual
information and library services
• Reader development activities and book groups
• Recreate historical or fictional environments
• Teach or co-teach virtual classes e.g.
– Using SL for quests and activities: learners solving
information problems using web resources and SL
• Create interactive learning objects
• Use SL to plan and “mock up” new services
• Organise, and participate in training & networking for
Webber 2010
“How are the teaching and learning in
virtual environments accepted by the
Picture: Vicki Cormie
All students
• Spectrum of reactions: from a bit dull/ & childish, to
cool, exciting and motivating
• Key issue is technology: in particular younger
students get frustrated if there is “lag” (making it
difficult to move round and do things in SL)
• My perspective: key thing is whether it helps them
achieve their learning outcomes, students don’t all
like lectures, seminars etc. either!
Webber 2010
“Could you
compare the
approach of the
students and
those, who are
older by 10-15
My generalisations (there is variety in all
age groups)…
• Older students (compared to younger)
may do more outside class time
less worried about being “childish”
may be quicker in seeing applications for SL
part of generally being more mature and motivated
a few might find it a bit strange
• Younger students
– Happy to try things out
– Want to use technologies where they can connect with friends
– Expect “games” to be fast moving, have a plot and have good
graphics (so their expectations have to be modified or met)
– Seem to accept it as another way to learn
Webber 2010
Second Life is a
valuable as one of
the environments I
use for teaching &
and (if you want) you
can also have fun!
Sheila Webber
[email protected]
Twitter: SheilaYoshikawa
Pictures by Sheila
Webber unless
otherwise stated
Sheila Yoshikawa
Webber 2010
• This presentation is on slideshare at
• Second Life and Information Literacy: a three minute video
created for this conference with 4 examples from SL: or
• Delicious links on SL and libraries/information literacy: (compiled by Sheila Webber, Vicki
Cormie, Denny Colledge, Marshall Dozier, Lyn Parker)
Webber 2010
• Balk, D. (2008), Could a Video Game Assist in the Delivery of
Generic Information Literacy Skills to Students in Higher
Education?, MSc dissertation, Robert Gordon University
• Clyde, J. and Thomas, C. (2008), ”Building an Information
Literacy first-person shooter”, Reference Services Review,
Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 366-380.
• Virtual World Watch (reports on
use of virtual worlds in UK HE & FE, podcasts etc.)
• Webber, S. and Nahl, D. (2010) “Sustaining learning for LIS
through use of a virtual world.” Paper presented at the
2010 IFLA conference. Full text at
Webber 2010
• Infolit iSchool
– wiki:
– Flickr site:
[email protected]/collections/72157604063164433/17
• Information Literacy in Second Life Wiki (also the focus for Information
Literacy Week in Second Life):
• LIS Student Union in SL,
Sloog site:
Flickr site:
YouTube Channel:
Webber 2010

Using Second Life as a learning environment