Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CC in SL

The third event I mentioned in the last post was a meeting of the Community Colleges in Second Life group. I had attempted to attend a meeting with them several times, but kept missing the meeting, either because the SLED calendar was wrong, or I misunderstood the time of the meeting. Finally, last Wednesday I met with several community college instructors, the discussion led by Pipsqueak Fiddlesticks, a community college librarian and professor.

The first issue we discussed was how to deal with griefers, avatars who set out to create mischief by harassing others. Apparently there has been a rise in problems with griefers on Infoisland and at a College Fair that took place weekend before last. In fact, Pipsqueak doesn't give out RL information on herself because she was stalked by an SL user. So figuring out how to deal with griefers is important to discuss with students when in SL.

The second issue is one that I've been wrestling with for several weeks. Under eighteen year old students. In SL, anyone under 18 cannot access the virtual world. There is Teen SL which is available for teens 13-17. The problem is when you have a class of mixed ages. This often happens at community colleges since we deal with the first two years of college, and we have many dual enrolled high school students. Furthermore, online classes particularly attract high school students who live out of the city.

As it stands, if I were to have a class with students under 18, I could not bring them all into Second Life. This presents a serious problem. One instructor mentioned that he just allows students who are under age to follow along in class, but obviously that wouldn't work with an online class. Another instructor suggested making sure to have alternative activities in the 2D portion of the class, but I don't like that solution at all, to have students barred from educational activities that others are participating in. Underage students could lie about their age, but if instructors bring underage students into Second Life, they would be banned, as has happened, at least that's the rumor. But even so, instructors can't ethically tell students to lie about their age.

The only other solution I can think of is to advertise in the schedule book beforehand that students must be 18 years old or older in order to take the class.

I don't understand why students cannot obtain a permission slip from their parents to participate with a college class in SL, just as they might for other college activities. The point is that they have permission to attend adult college classes. A permission slip from a student's parent absolving Linden Labs and the college of liability seems to cover legal issues that Linden Labs obviously is worried about.

Pipsqueak Fiddlesticks plans to discuss with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) about this problem and see if we can talk to Linden Labs about a way around it. For SL to be a viable venue for online education, we have to be able to serve underage students.

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