Con-Fusion about education in Second Life

Incorrect thinking: just because a campus region is empty of other avatars doesn't necessarily mean it is "abandoned" (image: UWA campus, Second Life)
Incorrect thinking: just because a campus region in Second Life is empty of other avatars doesn’t necessarily mean it is “abandoned” (image: part of the UWA campus, Second Life)

Second Life (with a nod to the Lab’s Project Sansar) has enjoyed some reasonably good press of late. We’ve seen articles in the likes of Variety Online, Re/code, Gamasutra – good golly, Miss Molly, even Moviepilot is getting in on the act.

However, there will still be pieces out there which reflect poorly on matters. Not so much where Second Life is concerned, but on their authors. Such is the case with

We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life.

Patrick Hogan: writing to underline a preconception
Patrick Hogan: writing to underline a preconception?

As one might expect from such a title, this isn’t a reasoned discussion of the whys and wherefores, both good and bad, on the use of Second Life for educational purposes. There is no mention of the work of universities such as Texas A&M, as featured in episode #19 of The Drax Files World Makers, or that of the University of Western Australia. There is no highlighting of the struggle schools, colleges and universities faced as a result of the axing of the education discount or the resurgence of interest following its re-introduction; indeed Mr. Hogan demonstrates he’s not even aware there is an educational discount.

Similarly, no insights are given into how the platform has been used to assist with medical training among nurses and surgeons alike.  There is no pointer to the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) run by the  Universidad de San Martín de Porres (USMP) in Perú, now in its third year, which helps Spanish-speaking educators get started with Second Life simply because it is in demand as a platform for education, and so on.

Nor, frankly should we expect there to be any such discussion, because Mr. Hogan doesn’t appear to be so much interested in Second Life as he does about underlining his own misconceptions about the platform which, like his opening comments, seem to be firmly rooted in 2007.

So does this mean we should ignore what he has to say? No, not at all. Looking through his other articles, Mr. Hogan seems to prefer to skim his subjects with the aim of offering something of a lighter look. As such, he may well be open to gaining a little more educated about this particular topic.

Certainly, and with a view to addressing the readership of the piece, its subjective nature and the misconceptions evident within it should be corrected, starting with the false premise of the piece itself (an “empty” region is in no way indicative of it having been “abandoned”).

These arre not the educational uses of virtual worlds Mr. hogan was looking for...
These are not the educational uses of virtual worlds Mr. Hogan was looking for…

Of course, had he really been interested in his subject, Mr. Hogan could have contacted the Lab, asked a few questions, received some pointers towards various education-related organisations and communities, and been on his way and filling his little corner of Fusion with relevant observations, positive or negative.

But he didn’t. He preferred the lazy route, walking the same, tired furrow that’s all too familiar and boring. His article even manages the obligatory reference to porn that is considered de rigueur for such pieces (check the title byline).

That he does opt to walk this line is really to his detriment, rather than it being any reflection on those who use Second Life or the platform itself.