“I’m Just Not a Bookworm” – Exploring Literary History in ‘Second Life

© Esko Lius

“Learning must have personal meaning and it should be fun”, says Esko Lius, project coordinator of “New Ways of Experiential Learning in Virtual Learning Environments” at the Sotunki Distance Learning Centre in Finland. His institution has developed several learning modules in Second Life, such as biology, geography and literature. Moving classes to SL makes distance learning more attractive, more social and finally more effective, Lius is convinced. At ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN, the Finnish researcher will present a virtual learning path literary history.

Students Meet Literary Heroes Online

The project New Ways of Experiential Learning in Virtual Learning Environments” kicked off in autumn of 2009 and got in full swing with the beginning of 2010. An exciting part of the presence in Second Life is a virtual learning pathway on literary history for second level school students. The idea is to let students experience literature more actively, as well as to let them learn together in groups. Therefore content is presented in varying ways, making use of the whole potential of Second Life. For example, students knock on fallen coconuts in order to get to know the writers of the Age of Enlightenment or they visit a virtual crypt to meet the ghost of Julien Sorel from the novel Le Rouge et le Noir.The learning path uses imagery and surroundings which refer to the literature epoche presented, e.g. the Age of Enlightenment is taught on the island of Robinson Crusoe.

Additionally, the devolopment team uses Second Life’s advanced shared media capabilities to show videos and write texts on collaborative pad platforms and on GoogleDocs. As a result, the learning path becomes a comprehensive learning enviroment that allows much more than just chatting with other avatars or flying through virtual landscapes.

Virtual Environments Need Different Pedagogy

© Esko Lius

Second Life has become the leading platform for learning in virtual worlds, though its popularity, hyped by an immense media interest some years ago, seemed to have settled down. In the educational sector, researchers are still working on ways to grasp its full potential, avoiding mere replication of common practices. “Setting up a properly working and inspiring virtual environment is challenging,” Lius points out, “not only because of the environmental planning and construction, but because one must think the traditional pedagogical practices anew. Our team first set out our educational principles and after that started to create the virtual environment and the learning objects.”

SL Enhances Interaction Between Students

The learning path on literary history has been tested by secondary school students, by both adults and young students and, so far, the feedback is very promising: students are investing more time for learning literature, using Second Life as opposed to only working with text books or conventional web-based learning platforms. They interact more with each other and even seem to be able to remember aspects of the subject after their exam better and longer than before.

At OEB, the researcher plans to show participants the learning path in action and demonstrate a real-world example, in which students learn about Dadaism and produce their own Dadaist piece.

Have a sneak peek at the virtual world of Sotunki in the video below.

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