What are the benefits and limitations of using Second Life in Education? Use of the internet has increased exponentially in recent years, in both developed and developing countries, and educators are searching for ways of utilising the new technology and environment to enhance teaching and learning experiences. Second Life (SL) is a world which exists online. The world is complete with schools, universities, businesses and even criminal activity. As the use and popularity of SL grows, so too does the research regarding its viability as an educational tool. Both the apparent benefits and limitations have been considered in a variety of research papers (Baker, Wentz & Woods, 2009; Taylor & Chung, 2008). In order to determine whether SL is a useful option for educational institutions, the following aspects will be considered as part of this review: features of online learning, technical considerations and the overall potential uses. Some important features of online learning discussed by the authors include accessibility, popularity, and community. Access to online learning is an important aspect to consider, for both teachers and students. The flexibility of the online environment means that this type of technology can potentially be accessed at many different times and a variety of different places (Baker, Wentz and Woods, 2009). According to Baker et al. (2009), lecturers can make use of the technology by delivering their information via avatars. Taylor and Chung (2008) also consider the popularity of SL, and how this may encourage users to participate in online educational content. Indeed, as Baker et al. (2009) also suggest, students can be not only participants but can also “create their own content” (p. 60). They add that it is possible for students to meet together, attend discussion online and interact with tutors in an informal and relaxed way, as well as encouraging students who may otherwise be shy to have a ‘voice’. In this way they are building and sharing within their own communities and taking responsibility for their own learning. However, as Taylor and Chung (2008) assert, although SL might be popular, colourful, visual and interactive, students may not enjoy learning in this way, and using SL instead of more traditional methods may actually cause students to forget what they have learned. The authors suggest that the enjoyment of using an avatar and playing in SL may mean students do not focus on the aims of the lesson or lecture. Furthermore, Baker et al. (2009) suggest that there may be limitations of online interaction compared to face-to-face interaction. It is thus important for teacher to consider these issues before using SL.
Not only that, there are also a few technical considerations such as cost and time, using SL and also technical knowledge been mentioned by the authors. Baker et al. (2009) claim that the cost of using SL could be differ. Anyone can use it for free yet there are also some charges for people to have a virtual land in SL. According to Baker et al. (2009), people need to consume time to get used to SL. There are initial times to create an avatar, control it, and communicate using computer. Taylor and Chung (2008) clarify that in order to get the benefits; people have to invest money and time for the programming content. Being failed to control avatar, learners might become de-motivated and not willing to use it. By using SL, Baker et al. (2009) remind teachers to consider the objective of online teaching, thinking if it is appropriate for the class or not, can they or the learners be familiarized with the technology and even developed new class management techniques. In fact, Baker et al. (2009) point out that the technical requirement of using SL is higher than basic requirement. Also, there might be some potential issues such as slow connection, slide show’s problem, and security issue. Taylor and Chung (2008) add that there are not a lot of document storages and the computer might get slow due to many graphics. In addition, the authors also insist that there are some overall potentials like new technology, uses in present fields and potential issues using SL in education and training purposes. Baker et al. (2009) reveal that SL is a new technology which launched in 2003, yet some educators already investigating the uses of SL in teaching and learning purposes. Its dominant is SL is not a game like Active Worlds, MMPORGs, and Whyville; it’s a space for social communication. There are some possible issues that people need to be careful as it may have serious effects. Students need to be informed the appropriate usage of the new technology–SL in learning. Besides that, they need to be taught the proper way to behave themselves and protect their privacy while using SL. Furthermore, an emergency plan should be planned so that when the technology having problems and not performing well, students will not lost temper and cause severe impacts. Taylor and Chung (2008) suggest that SL is a powerful tool in helping training and development sectors. Nevertheless, they also discover that IBM still remains using text-based collaboration which leads to the efficacy of SL. It still has some difficulties to an effective transmission for instruction and content management. As a result, there are lots of potential to be found in the human-computer interaction, usability and instructional design. Through the articles reviewed it seems that the benefits and drawbacks of using SL are equal. Although SL can helps people in learning, people still have to pay much more efforts on it. To get used to SL, people have to spent money, time, and think out the appropriate way to use it wisely. Obviously, SL has the potential to facilitate people’s learning. In fact, to use it or not depends on the further research whether the benefits can overcome the limitations or not.