The University of Technology, Sydney Australia (UTS) conducted a case study in 2011 with undergraduate students in the French and Japanese intermediate language and culture subjects offered in the International Studies Program.
Each class participated in a series of Second Life activities over one semester during tutorials to complement traditional weekly lessons based on textbooks and other materials. A virtual representation of a two story furnished house was built in Second Life to simulate private space.
In front of this building, four smaller single-level rooms were built for activities covering themes such as retail and administration. The focus of students interaction was synchronous (text chat) and asynchronous (through digital objects such as note cards and video screens). The aim of these activities was not only to allow students to communicate and to understand various themes (directions, household chores, leisure activities, giving an opinion), but to also reinforce grammatical concepts that were part of the semester’s curriculum (hypothetical, direct and indirect speech, conditional).
Understanding how to use Japanese text script was a particular focus for the Japanese class. During the semester, results obtained through student surveys and teacher observation indicated that virtual world activities support rather then substitute existing practices; survey responses highlighted that students welcome the idea of both face-to-face contact and future activities designed using the virtual world. Virtual activities, therefore, can complement existing traditional activities and go further in introducing virtual spaces that can stimulate classroom themes, with communication as the prime motivator.
Interested in a virtual space of your own? Check out the properties the NMC Virtual World Campus has to offer.