The history of education in Second Life is a very long one having roots in the earliest days of the platform after it was first launched. In the peak period of second life educational usage (2007-2008), there were more than 800 universities, colleges, and other schools represented in Second Life on both the main and the teen grid.
There are numerous sources of first-hand peer-reviewed research that have been directly attributable to professors and universities that have used the platform, not only for the basis of delivering educational programs, but also for researching the effects that virtual environments have on subjects as varied as psychology, law, medicine, architecture, arts, culture, agriculture, border security, business, economics, project management. The list is very long and very varied.
In the early days, many of these types of histories were documented as part of the Second Life Communities Conference. This real-life conference ran for about 4-5 years, the last one being in 2011, and brought together people from the worlds of education, business, law, music, fashion, design, and machinima to celebrate their creative endeavors. The conference included opportunities to discuss issues directly with the people that were responsible for developing much of the in-world content, especially educators.
In 2007, the first Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference took place during a 24 hour period which left a resounding mark on the educational community and the approximately 1200 people that attended.
In 2009, the conference was rebranded as the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference which has run every year since. It has been part of our VWBPE mandate to document as many key success stories as possible through lectures, video, workshops, exhibits (posters), and journal publications.
The conference itself is supported by a number of sponsors and in-kind supporters. In addition, there is a small army of somewhere between 80-120 volunteers which help support an equal number of presenters, artists, machinima directors, and, of course, educators, by putting on a 4 day conference followed by a 3 week series of follow-on explorations and workshops.
Each year the conference attracts between 2500 to 3500 people, from over 60 countries, interested in the use of virtual environments for teaching, collaboration, art, science, music, and design. A collection of our archives is maintained on our website at http://vwbpe.org/vwbpe-archives where people can find links to our publications (2010-2014), video archives (over 160 hours), slideshare presentations (57), and various awards and credit acknowledgements. Further, many of these archives cross-link with other materials which showcase the diversity of the community as a whole through other social media platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, and more.
It is not just about positive results for education, but what education does to enable people to be creative, innovative, and collaborative. Those tendrils extend well beyond the simple act of teaching in itself, and encourage all the subsequent content that is derived by the act of showing someone what they can do with a simple square prim.
Our conference this year runs from March 18-21 with a number of virtual explorations and tours in the weeks following. This conference isn't just for educators but for anyone interested in knowledge, community, and sharing. If you really want to see what the community, both education related and non-education related, is doing with Second Life, this is one of the core ‘go to’ resources to find out.
-- Kevin Feenan
SL: Phelan Corrimal