Monday, 3 March 2008

Second Life use by UK universities and colleges

The compilation of the latest snapshot, looking at the use of Second Life in UK Higher and Further Education, is underway.

This is the third in the series funded by the Eduserv Foundation. Previous "snapshot" reports, and other materials, can be found in their Second Life section.


We're interested in instances of UK universities and colleges, departments, or academics developing "stuff" in Second Life. And we're keen to "visit" them. This should build up a picture of who is doing what in Second Life, the scale of development, and what these developments are being used for. We're also keen to have a look at how they've used SL to support teaching and learning, where appropriate.

As we visit these developments, we'll be taking screen dumps and adding them to this picture set in Flickr. The description for each picture will contain the location of the development.


We're also interested in those developments, in UK universities and colleges, that have been used for teaching and learning.

To keep up with what's happening, either or subscribe to the Games and Second Life RSS feed

for this blog. If you're in UK Higher or Further Education and you've developed something in Second Life then get in touch:

john (@)


It's an opportunity to promote what you've done, and also for like-minded academics to find you.

If you are aware of other developments in UK universities and colleges - be they at the institution, department, group or lone academic level, then we'd appreciate word of them too; thanks.


  1. Roland Legrand4 March 2008 at 18:19

    Great. It seems there are now over 400 universities in Second Life. However, I often wonder, what are they actually doing there? I know about some seminars in Second Life, typically about "virtual worlds" or "second life" or "cyber law", but can one actually study there, participate in courses about, let us say, philosophy, computer sciences etc? I somehow have the impression there is a lot of building going on, a lot of conferences being organised, but in the end there is not that much to do for people like me who would like to use Second Life as a tool for lifelong learning. Could it be that those projects are pet projects of some very dynamic academics, but whithout the necessary backing from their institutions to actually use Second Life or other virtual worlds on a large scale?

  2. Roland, your impression is correct, at the moment we see the birthing stage of education in Second Life as it is only really the last 18 months that universities have got going in SL. This early stage has involved building facilities (where no one goes) using different teaching/learning tools, holding experimental classes and testing the waters. The second stage seems to involve more structured learning activities by teachers for students, but still majors on events, communication, demonstration, discussion and presentation. I think that as teachers learn how to exploit the media and find unique ways of using SL for learning and teaching it will start to go more mainstream and become acceptable as a valid medium rather than just a big game. We are still trialling some ideas in SL such as role play/simulation, design and field trips, but it may take some time before full courses are available. However, one of my colleagues plans to offer some general education courses next September in SL which include Popular Culture & Urban Life, Media & Everyday Life and Introduction to Modern Society. I am not sure if these will be lectures, discussion, or using other learning methods - but I think we will begin to see some more substantial educational activity soon. And by the way, these initiatives are funded and supported from the top in our Institution.

  3. Roland,I share many of your concerns. One of the reasons that we have funded John to undertake the current series of snapshots is to see whether and how the use of SL by educational institutions in the UK is changing and, if so, what impact that is having on learning.I agree that we tend to see too much emphasis on building virtual campuses and that, in many cases, these spaces give the impression of being under-utilised. Having said that, I was heartened recently to be involved with a very simple in-world role-playing exercise undertaken by MBA students at the University of Bath. I blogged about this activity on my ArtsPlace SL blog - see was nothing particularly stunning about this work. More than anything, it was just refreshing to see real students coming in-world to undertake real collaborative learning activities. I'm not close enough to the action to know how well this activity worked, in terms of its pedagogic effectiveness - but in a way that would miss the point at this stage. The point is that we need to see more lecturers doing this kind of thing... getting their students involved in in-world learning activities. Then we can begin to do some real analysis of whether the approach works or not.Note that in funding the snapshots we are not trying to promote virtual worlds above any other approach to learning (ICT-based or otherwise) per se. But we do need to move our understanding forward about when it makes sense to use a virtual world approach as opposed to any other. And part of doing that involves surveying the landscape, seeing what is going on, then trying to extract some notion of best-practice from it.

  4. Michael Callaghan6 March 2008 at 18:50

    I would generally agree with the comments above. Our initial foray into Second Life focussed on exploring the capabilities/limitations of the in-world modelling and scripting tools and yes we did recreate parts of our real campus in the virtual world. Since then we have moved on and have focussed on two interesting areas 1) the integration of vle's and virtual worlds e.g. the Sloodle project which looks at linking Moodle and Second Life and 2) the integration and display of external hardware sensor information into virtual worlds and we are seeing real potential here. At the recent game developers conference in San Francisco the main deficiency (from a gamer’s perspective) of environments like Second Life was the lack of “structured interaction” . They don’t seem overly comfortable with not giving the user something to do (or kill). There was an excellent two day summit on virtual worlds which attached big crowds and had numerous vendors offering virtual world solutions. The main deficiency in most of these solutions is that most in-world content needed to be created offline (e.g. Maya, 3D Studio Max or Google Sketchup) and then imported in-world. The ability to do this in-world is Second Life’s main advantage at the moment. Look out for Lego Universe......

  5. I've taken loads of photos and put some of them on Flickr, in a collection "Infolit iSchool" agree with much of the above - we have really had more professional development activity than students on our island (Infolit iSchool), though I've just had the induction sessions for the 2nd class that has SL as a compulsory element (in Semester 1 it was 1st year undergrads BSc Information Management, this Semester postgrad students, optional module on Educational Informatics).I see it as an alternative learning space, different altogether to a "Virtual Learning Environment" and with different (more exciting/imaginative) opportunities. I think the value for professional networking should not be underestimated ether - I was just watching a machinima from an educator who was saying how he couldn't afford to go to conferences etc. and wasn't particularly engaged professionally, but this had changed through SL.

  6. I was just wondering...As well as the snapshots, and other reports on who is doing what, has anyone made public student surveys on the use of SL? I don't think I've seen any of this kind of evidence except for at conferences/events.I would be interested to see what questions students are asked regarding their SL experiences and how useful students found activities on the system (perhaps versus how useful they find 'traditional' sessions). Perhaps this information could be aggregated to help those institutions who are still developing their use of SL - i.e. not taken the plunge of using it with students yet - from making the same mistakes as others, expecting too much of students, etc.ThanksIan

  7. Hi Sheila et al,Do you have a link to that video Sheila? Sounds interesting!Thanks, Kathy

  8. More UK Second Life academic developments at Silversprite24 August 2008 at 21:58

    [...] on from the description and call for information, more examples and detail are coming [...]