MET:Language Learning in Second Life

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This Page was created by Anthony Di Palma SOLO, Winter 2010

Second Life and Education

Second Life (SL) is a 3D virtual world, sometimes referred to as a multi user virtual environment (MUVE), developed by Linden Lab which allows its user to meet, interact socially and even manipulate the environment around them (Deutschmann & Panichi, 2009). Users of SL are represented digitally by an avatar which can walk, fly and teleport throughout the virtual world. It has been estimated that by 2011, 20 million children will be members of MUVEs and with policy makers and educators seeing the need to introduce and improve digital literacy, many teachers are exploring options for student learning in SL (Merchant, 2009). SL from an educational perspective could also be considered a 3D virtual learning environment.

Virtual Lecture in SL

Virtual environments such as SL are capable of enhancing technological facilities through interactive learning thus increasing learning outcomes (Schiller, 2009). Although there are many areas of SL that are entertainment oriented, there are a growing number of high quality educational islands where teachers can collaborate, learn and teach their students. Individuals can enter SL and purchase land to develop. Also in Teen Second Life educators and school systems have the opportunity to purchase land at a lower cost than on the adult grid. Teachers and students can then use that land purchased to build buildings, campuses and cities to host their classes and provide interesting environments to present their curriculum (Yoder, 2009).

Language Learning in Second Life

The potential for language learning in a MUVE has multiple opportunities to enhance language learning, even more so than the more traditional method of using technology to assist with language acquisition, CALL (computer assistd language learning). Language learning has been taking place in SL since 2005 when the first large scale school began its operation. There are many other educational institutions which house virtual campuses in the Metaverse including Princeton, Harvard and Monash Universities. There are many institutions both private and public that offer language courses. Two private institutions in particular are and Drive Through. Both institutions offer classes in a virtual classroom and focus on verbal communication and conversational reading and writing. The majority of offerings from both schools are for learning english as a second language, although options do exist for learning other languages and there are specialized programs for language use in the professional world. The British Council also operates in SL. This cultural relations organization offers english language learning opportunities on their island in Teen Second Life. Students need to be registered with the school and have paid for classes to attend. Students will also need to have a membership in the SL environment where they will attend classes as their avatar. Language practice in class is through text chat and voice chat, both are synchronous communication. Therefore students will have opportunities to learn both the written and spoken aspects of a language. Since SL is also a virtual world, students will have opportunities to converse with their classmates and informally learn their second language through practice outside of the classroom, for example in's virtual English City.

Pedagogical Benefits of Learning Language in SL

Students who learn in a virtual environment have the added benefit of learning social, technical and practical life skills in a setting that will keep them engaged. Students will have the opportunity to learn from each other collaboratively. There are also opportunities for students to collaborate internationally with other learners from around the world thus promoting globalization. Some studies have shown that learning in virtual environments has also increased student motivation and interest in a subject, through constructivism and virtual experiential learning (Yoder, 2009). SL also offers some anonymity and privacy which arguably can lower levels of anxiety in students, which many believe to be important in language learning contexts (Deutschmann & Panichi, 2009). Another benefit is that in the animated environment, the reliance on avatar representations, which have little expressive qualities, can lead to more focus being placed on the true speaking and listening aspects of a language. However, in some respects the classroom dynamics of SL are very similar to the face to face classroom, as teachers can provide conversational feedback to learners, and classmates have opportunities to converse as well. It is also important to point out that since audio synchronous communication has a limited presence of visual cues therefore teachers must begin to develop new skills relevant to the roles of being facilitators of communication in online contexts (Deutschmann & Panichi, 2009).

British Council Island of English Language Instruction

Six Learnings Framework

This is a pedagogical outline for virtual world education in general (Lim, 2009) and can certainly be applied to education in language learning virtual environments.

  1. Exploring: learners explore a virtual world’s locations and communities as fieldwork for class.
  2. Collaborating: learners work together within a virtual world on collaborative tasks.
  3. Being: learners explore themselves and their identity through their presence in a virtual world, such as through role play.
  4. Building: learners construct objects within a virtual world.
  5. Championing: learners promote real life causes through activities and presentations in a virtual world.
  6. Expressing: learners represent activities within a virtual world to the outside world, through blogs, podcasts, presentations and videos.

See Also


Bell, D. (2009). Learning from Second Life. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 515-525. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Deutschmann, M., & Panichi, L. (2009). Talking into Empty Space? Signalling Involvement in a Virtual Language Classroom in Second Life. Language Awareness, 18310-328. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Lim, Kenneth (April 2009). "Pedagogy, Education and Innovation in 3-D Virtual Worlds". Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. Retrieved 2009-06-22.

Merchant, G. (2009). Literacy in Virtual Worlds. Journal of Research in Reading, 32(1), 38-56. Retrieved from ERIC database.

O'Connor, E., & Sakshaug, L. (2009). Preparing for Second Life: Two Teacher Educators Reflect on Their Initial Foray into Virtual Teaching and Learning. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 37(3), 259-271. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Schiller, S. (2009). Practicing Learner-Centered Teaching: Pedagogical Design and Assessment of a Second Life Project. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(3), 369-381. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Yoder, M. (2009). Walk, Fly, or Teleport to Learning: Virtual Worlds in the Classroom. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(2), 16-20. Retrieved from ERIC database.