SDSU courses to enter virtual realm

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

A new virtual world will soon provide SDSU with a 3-D look at experiences not accessible in a regular classroom environment.

“The virtual world would be a way to deliver education in a more realistic environment,” said Kendra Kattlemann, professor of Nutrition Food Science and Hospitality. “It has great potential.”

Second Life has not yet been used in SDSU classes, but the university has purchased a licensed “island.” The island is a world that represents SDSU and its campus. The Union and the Sylvan Learning Center are displayed in the virtual world.

“Another building that may be added to the island is The Wellness Center,” said Betsy Gilbertson, an instructional multimedia designer.

Some of the programs that are interested in using Second Life include: Agricultural Biology, Food Science, Education, General Studies and possibly some of the design courses. These programs would join about 500 universities that are using some form of a virtual world, Gilbertson said.

“I would like to see a virtual dining facility at which people can practice making healthy choices,” said Kattlemann. “I am doing a research program that involves the prevention of excessive weight gain that I would like to use Second Life for.”

“The only thing about research projects is that getting the grant money is a very long process,” said Kattlemann. “I don’t see this happening within the semester.”

Another reason that Second Life would be an improvement to SDSU is its ability to add a lab simulation to online courses, officials said.

“Some examples of simulations that would be used are medical simulations in which students can take the position in a virtual world as a medical professional,” said Gilbertson. “They would do things like checking on patients and routine things like the avatar always washing their hands before seeing a patient.”

Other examples of possible simulation include mental health simulation in which students would practice doing counseling consultations. Adelaine said Second Life provides various systems unavailable in a classroom.

“Say you’re taking a history class,” said Mike Adelaine, vice president for information technology. “Your teacher could take you walking through the streets of Rome, or you could have a conversation with Abraham Lincoln.”

Other capabilities that Second Life offers include uploading images and PowerPoints, as well as having instant messaging for communication and interaction between students and instructors.

“I think it’s a great tool for education enhancement,” said Kattlemann.

“The possibilities that Second Life provides for the future is the best thing about it,” Gilbertson said. “A lot of areas plan to go fully online so this would add the lab component.”

Previously, SDSU tried a pilot program of Second Life in one of the nursing courses, but they came across a few problems.

“The class was completely wireless, and it really needs hard wire in order to work fast enough,” said Gilbertson. “When you have all those students trying to use it with wireless, it just doesn’t work properly.”

#1.881520:2688739331.jpg:Second Life.1.jpg:SDSU has started working on a virtual campus. This campus will be used to enhance many classes.:Ryan Robinson