Extreme E-Learning, Virtual Worlds, And Public Spaces

Abhijeet Chavan's picture
Staff
Screenshot of Second Life

Wired has a story about university professors about taking online education to a new level -- teaching classes in a 3-D virtual world. The virtual world in a "massively multiplayer " online game called Second Life includes a developed economy, neighborhoods and communities, all manner of vehicles and the ability to create nearly anything imaginable."

What caught my attention was that one of the professors using Second Life for teaching is University of Texas at Austin's Anne Beamish who uses it to teach urban planning.

"I use Second Life for students to explore ideas about public space and what makes a good public space," she said. "Being in Second Life all of a sudden puts them in this different environment, which is similar but different, and it forces them to explore how they think about these things.... When you're in Second Life, because it's similar, but the physics are different, people react differently. And it makes them think more deeply about how one designs public spaces."


Learning from our understanding of our physical world and society, many 3-D games attempt to recreate it digitally, aiming for accuracy and realism. Beamish and her students are exploring an interesting question: What can "inhabiting" a virtual world teach us about our physical world?
Abhijeet Chavan is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.

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