1. What is Second Life?

Second Life is a 3D collaborative environment that allows people to interact with each other using gestures, online text-based messaging and voice (VoIP). Advanced users can also build 3D representations of real-world objects (or even forms that have never existed before). It is not a game as such, you do not attempt to win/defeat anything, though it is possible to script game features in there. You navigate the space using an avatar (a computer generated identity) that is normally controlled by people sitting at their computer, although avatars do exist which are Artificial Intelligence programs.

2. Why is it of interest to Universities?

Undoubtedly there is a bandwagon effect associated with Second Life at present, and it appears to be mentioned in any article on IT at the moment. However, the potential for using immersive environments in education has been recognised for some time. To take a simple approach Second Life is just another communication tool, along the lines of email lists or chat rooms, the main difference is that it takes place in a 3D world. However, many Universities are also using it for a variety of functions: public lectures, online seminars, meetings, a collaborative space for research groups, open days, etc. For a full list of other institutions with a ‘presence’ in Second Life see http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Second_Life_Education_Directory />