Here is my statement of purpose that I used to explain/justify my sabbatical for the sabbatical committee (with a couple alterations):
Lansing Community College was one of those institutions who scrambled, and with President’s Syke’s vision and full support for faculty to develop courses as fully interactive and rigorous as face-to-face (f2f) classes—and in one year—we started offering an online degree with the newly formed Virtual College in fall 1997, the first community college in Michigan to do so. With a desktop computer, dial-up connection, AltaVista Forum, Netscape Composer, some web space and email, I conducted the first WRIT 121: Composition I class online and have continued teaching online, whether with f2f, hybrid or fully online classes, ever since.
Much has changed in the last ten years—FrontPage, Angel, high speed Internet, Firefox, WIMBA—with my online classes, as well as the many others at LCC and at colleges across the nation. However, changes are taking place within the last few years that are beginning to leave many of us scrambling, again, to catch up: Web 2.0, a term coined under four years ago by Tim O’Reilly that comes to terms with the web as interactive communities rather than as a place for individuals to access information through their standalone PC. With blogs, Google, Wikipedia, Pageflakes, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Second Life and many other web applications and web communities, the Internet has become much more interactive and adaptive than anything we saw ten years ago.
Consequently, what I plan to do for my sabbatical is to explore the Web 2.0 world with the purpose of determining what and where (virtually) would enhance online learning for my classes. I’m particularly interested in finding ways to make online classes much more of a virtual world than we currently present through our two-dimensional course management software (CMS) platform, Angel, where class members have a place with visual and aural depth just as they do traditionally with a brick and mortar classroom.
I’m particularly interested in Second Life, a 3D virtual community where users have a physical presence through avatars that roam a virtual world much like a video game. Angel just last year rolled out their own Angel Learning Island in Second Life upon which educators can learn about, explore, and conduct online classes. And some colleges/universities have their own virtual institution in this virtual world, such as Ohio University, Case Western Reserve and Valencia Community College.