Virtual worlds are growing explosively—a reported 11+ million users in Second Life (SL) alone. By 2011, it is estimated 80% of all Internet users will have some form of 3D virtual identity. Simultaneously, our progressively interconnected society is having a significant effect on learners and their expectations of the learning economy.
Faced with these dynamics, how do educational institutions meet the changing needs of learners and integrate the technology that learners value to support teaching and learning? Loyalist College is responding with a move to redefining how and where learning is facilitated. Using interactive media, it is taking the classroom to a new frontier. Loyalist embarked on an innovation in 2006 earning it the title as the first Canadian college to build a campus and teach in the virtual world of SL. Extending the natural campus into the virtual world is enhancing learners’ experiences, augmenting course materials and facilitating the learning experience beyond the traditional classroom, laboratory and shop.
These developments help meet learners’ demand for a new value equation in education. Markedly different from the traditional model, learners are engaged in the learning process as active participants, collaborating to ensure content is timely, relevant and memorable. The virtual world provides an exciting mode of delivery, fostering creativity in faculty as they develop content suitable for this medium. The simulation and role-play capabilities facilitate the creation of learning environments not accessible in the real world, enabling professors to take learners out of the classroom and into scenarios and situations learners will encounter in their professional careers. A shift that is resulting in increased engagement.
With its leading presence in SL, Loyalist is collaborating with other postsecondary institutions worldwide on the future of education and the use of this essential tool that is having transformational effects on teaching and learning.
|Keywords:||Learner, Value, Education, Virtual World|
Vice President, Enrollment Management and Student Services, Loyalist College, Belleville, Ontario, Canada
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