Sceptics start to see the other side of Second Life

Study finds virtual learning environments taking off despite dogged hostility. Hannah Fearn reports

Hostility between academics who advocate teaching through virtual worlds and those who scorn the idea is being blamed for holding back the evolution of higher education.

The warning comes despite evidence that universities are slowly embracing virtual environments such as Second Life for teaching, according to a report from the Virtual World Watch consultancy.

The report, Zen and the Art of Avatar Maintenance, says that like the two characters in Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, academics hold polarised views of learning online.

“Some people take to it with great enthusiasm; others recoil in dismay, horror or anger,” writes the study’s author, John Kirriemuir.

Enthusiasts do more than welcome the chance to work in a virtual world, they embrace their avatar, or online alter ego, and dress it up in new costumes and designs.

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