Virtual World's Impact on Education


Overview of this Trend's Impact on Education

Current Impact

While slight in numbers, current examples do exist of how virtual worlds are impacting education. Many high schools are taking advantage of virtual worlds, using them to work with other schools or study things and places that otherwise they would never be able to see. Some colleges are accepting the use, creating campuses and providing classes in Second Life (SL). Very few elementary level educators see the benefits of the revolutionary learning tool, but the possibilities are there for the youngest of students as well. Studying Marco Polo? Why not meet him? Learning about different types of rocks? Why not go inside of one? Virtual Worlds provide these opportunities to students of all ages.

Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality is a type of virtual world that uses an actual physical space. Students have a laptop or cell phone (something with a screen) and a GPS tracker. When the student reaches a previously specified area of the designated space, the GPS triggers a video to start on the screen. That video would lead them to another space, triggering another video. It would be like a treasure map, with the final lesson at the end. The process is an interactive learning method.


Eventually virtual worlds will permeate into every aspect of education. They (virtual worlds and education) will be one - inseparable, impossible to distinguish or differerientate. People will be able to attend a school solely in virtual worlds. Classes, from kindergarten to college, will be able to go inside a whale's stomach or visit ancient Rome, even design entire cities. The possibilities are endless and available. We need only to take advantage of them.

What needs to happen in education:

Educators at all levels need to accept change and technology. They must realize that virtual worlds will be a part of life whether they like them or not. Might as well take advantage of them, right? Instead of ignoring the new technology, why not use it to better the level of your educations.

Prekindergarten and Elementary Education (up through 8th grade)

Current ImpactSchool.jpg
The level of usage among elementary education isn't near what it needs to be. Some schools are using virtual worlds at this young level but not as many as should be. The ones who do use them use them as interactive learning environments (such as augmented reality)

Current examples:
  • South Greenville Elementary School in North Carolina has 670 students. It also as a group for advanced students in grades 3-5 known as the Young Einstein Club. They recently began a project in which they would build their own learning environment using Virtus WalkThrough Pro. Students worked with partners or alone and made amazing progress in small amounts of time. They designed, built and learned.
  • University of Luebeck in Germany performed a study in which a 3rd grade class used virtual reality. The kids created an augmented reality type environment, known as "mixed reality world" (Herczeg). The class's goal was to incorporate computer science into the study of arts. The children used LEGO software to animate and interact with things they had previously created. By the doing this kids were able to mix "ways of thinking in arts and in computer sciences" (Herczeg). The students used this virtual reality to experience interactive learning and further their knowledge of the arts.


Eventually (and it's closer than we think), elementary education will be able to completely incorporate virtual worlds into its curriculum. Students (especially at the younger ages) learn by doing. Everything they become is governed by what they learn when they're young. So if we can increase the level of their education at a younger age, then their intelligence at an older age will not only be greater, but they will also have the potential to grow beyond what they are. With these virtual worlds elementary students will be able to see the depths of the ocean or visit Old Egypt, go inside of volcanoes. All of these things that they must now only visualize will be able to be visited and seen without having to leave their classroom.

What needs to happen in education:

Learning opportunities in places such as Second Life need to become available for students aged twelve and under, as Teen Second life currently only offers membership to those between the ages of 13 and 17, and adult Second Life for those 18+, (most likely for safety reasons) which then rules younger people out of using the facilities available, thus minimizing the different ways they are able to learn through virtual realities.

Middle and High School Education (Grade 6-12)

Current Impact

Many schools are taking advantage of the tools provided by virtual worlds. They are using virtual worlds to change the way their students learn.

Kids Connect
A project known as Kids Connect is leading the way with the use of virtual worlds at the elementary level. Kids Connect is a project in Teen Second Life that was created by the Zoomlab in the USA. In Kids Connect, classes from New York and Amsterdam collaborate in Second Life to build a city that included traits from both cities. The students were given a private Island in second life that they could build on; they were also given the help of artists and educators from digital arts. The students learned a different assortment of skills throughout this project such as digital storytelling, live visual performance, improvisational theatre, soundscaping, sound recording and manipulation, video editing, live video streaming, collaborative performance, video conferencing, 3D modeling in Second Life, and programming (Second Life object scripting). The project provides a contrast in the customs and languages of each city, teaching the kids about another place. It also teaches them to work together with someone they don't even know, a tool that is necessary to succeed in nearly any world today. Project leader Josephine Dorado says that she is most amazed at how the students' "learning had accelerated since the first day, and how the students' skills regarding spatial patterning had evened out, transcending any kind of supposed gender differences." (Wagner)

Virtual Worlds in Middle and High School

  • Discussion/class locations provided on Teen Second Life (shown below)
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Middle/High school level educators will eventually be able to take their classes to another country for a day. They can take field trips without spending any money or leaving their classroom. With the students gathered round a computer, the class could visit Mars or the depths of the ocean. Soon kids will be able to experience hands on learning through virtual worlds and use computers to visit places never before available.

What needs to happen in education:

Many more schools need to develop campus' in virtual worlds so that people who are unable to attend school for assorted reasons (illness, living too far away from a school, etc.) are still able to gain a proper education. If every school created a virtual campus, students would never miss a day of school, and could access school facilities after hours if they needed them for work purposes. Also, by making more virtual campuses, even students from other schools could visit the different locations and take in different cultures from schools around the world, and the different learning styles, therefore broadening their education even further.

College Education

Current Impact

There are numerous instances of how virtual worlds are being used at the college level. Medical Students can perform zero-risk surgeries and automotive students can build engines, transmissions, or whole cars. These new technologies will greatly affect the education at a college level. Colleges are using virtual worlds to hold classes, build laboratories, and other things that previously may have been unavailable due to pecuniary limitations.

Second Life has become increasingly popular as a virtual world, most people who have a quick glimpse at SL assume it is a game, but this is not the case. SL has become exactly what it set out to be, a whole new life for some people, where they work and earn their living for their real lives. SL has lately also gained a lot of educational facilities. Universities, schools, colleges, museums, libraries and educational research organizations have started to emerge into SL. A complete updated list of these can be found on the following web page:

Examples of use:

Title - Virtual Worlds' Impact on College
Author - Andrew S, United States of America, 2007
Contributers - none


Eventually we will have entire, certified colleges available in places like Second Life. For example, in Second Life you could get a real degree, attend classes, meet with study groups, or work on reports. As the virtual world grows we'll have entire worlds online. People could get completely lost in the worlds (which is not a good thing).

Although having Virtual online campuses is a key factor of the future use of Virtual worlds, using Virtual Worlds in multiple areas is a risk free and cheap way to perform experiments, medical operations, electronic chip design, etc. Although this is being used in modern day, it is not very widespread yet. This would even enable medical patients to see how their operation is going to look on a virtual basis. Obviously this does not have to be on an online basis, but it would be in a virtual area. If it were online it could, for example, even allow doctors to review medical students' operations, even when they are not in the same area. This also counts for the other areas of usage (sciences, electronics, etc.).

What needs to happen in education:

Virtual worlds are being used by some small colleges, but for it to have a major impact, major universities need to accept it. Most professors are stuck in their ways and refuse to accept new methods.

Every university should have a campus in Second Life. The opportunities are endless with these virtual campuses: virtual classes from your house, interactive simulations, social interaction, customizable environments - it's all there.

Resource Documentation

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Edited by Andrew S, Mariska H and Henry S.
Standard: American English