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Above the Law: Classes get Second Life online

By Josh Law
On March 4, 2010

Have you ever wanted to get away from your hectic life, but lack the time or money to be able to? Just about everyone I know has had this issue at one time or another. One company has come up with a solution for this need, and has spawned a whole list of other options to its users.

Second Life is a virtual online world where users can log in and quite literally live a second life. The service is totally free to use, though there are options if you wish to pay money for a subscription that allows you to own more land and have more money in the world.

The user's avatar can be anything, and I do mean anything. Some users choose to look like themselves, and others choose to be an animal or plant. Once you have created this avatar for yourself, you are off and running in the virtual world.

Some of the applications of the virtual world are for social networking, working, shopping, art exhibitions, live music shows, live theater, sports and gaming. There are many other uses for this virtual world, but the most interesting one to me is its application for education.

I am not simply speaking of universities here either. The U.S. military has a space on Second Life where they have their own island in the virtual world to assist in training for their pilots. Entire countries have service through Second Life where they have established virtual embassies that allow users to speak with a representative of the country about visas or any other questions they have.

There are over 300 universities currently teaching courses through Second Life as well. In this virtual world, professors meet in given areas of the world with their classes and actually teach lessons through this service. Texas A&M University-Commerce has space on the servers for Second Life where students can meet with their professors for "online" classes.

I believe this adds a more personal touch to the online class format. I also believe it helps with the interaction between students and the professor and really grabs the student's attention in ways that the normal online class formats do not.

In addition to the many uses already mentioned, there are even people out there who have made Second Life a source of income for themselves. According to Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, "about 64,000 users made a profit in February 2009, of which 233 made more than $5,000." In March 2009, it became known that there are a few Second Life entrepreneurs, whose profits are in excess of $1 million.

Some people see Second Life as nothing more than glorified "Dungeons and Dragons", but there are applications we can all use available to us there.

In this technological world that we live in today, it was only a matter of time before this virtual world spilled out into our mainstream lives. The technology is here and we have the ability to embrace it and allow it to make our lives easier and more connected, so I believe we should.

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