Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Learning in Virtual Worlds: Not Just Child's Play

Innovative startups are using virtual worlds like Second Life and Twinity as virtual classrooms for people to learn new skills and languages. Could this one day replace brick-and-mortar classrooms?

Thanks to high speed Internet and flat rate pricing, virtual worlds saw a tremendous boost over the past years. This is unsurprisingly true for online games like World of Warcraft but also for virtual worlds like Second Life and Twinity which are now able to deliver more and more realistic graphics and a better user experience for their audience.


All three of them are used in education but today I want to focus on the two more “realistic” approaches of Second Life and Twinity.

One start-up I would like to talk about today specifically has built an entire learning environment for students who want to learn or improve their English on Second Life over the past five years. In just a couple of weeks, it has now not only raised $1 million in seed funding but also announced a collaboration with Pearson today. So I think we should take a look at what makes Languagelab.com so successful.

One drawback in my personal experience with Second Life was what I call the “Vanilla Sky Effect”. Similar to the scene from the movie where Tom Cruise is running down the empty streets around Time Square I always landed on islands with beautiful infrastructure but no one was there to talk to. Languagelab.com took care of that early on.They make sure that on their island, English City, one or more teachers where present to take care of the students who might show up.

The general idea of English City is pretty simple. The virtual city offers all the different places students know from situations in textbooks like a cafe, an airport, the customs, an art gallery and lately even a complete oil rig. Students can then experience real life interaction through their avatar and bring those situations to life. The possibilities are basically endless and the team at Languagelab will create more and more places for specific training needs, from health care to business administration.

Therefore one can state that learning in a virtual world is not so much a game but a simulation, similar to flight simulators pilots are trained in. Solving a problem in English on a burning oil rig might not be 100% the experience you have to handle in real life but a far better training than reading a manual and then having a classic exchange of Q&A in the classroom. As English city is so variable and offers many different places to visit, there should be a place of interest for each and every of their learners, may it be a reconstruction of the historic Shakespeare theatre, a fantasy cave or an airport.

The second example is Twinity. Other than Second Life where all islands and therefore buildings are created by individuals, Twinity itself is in control of the experience. The unique thing about this platform is that the team rebuilds real cities like Berlin, London and Miami. This is of course very interesting for online classes with a variety of different topics. Of course, language learning comes to mind but one could have classes about architecture, law enforcement and general training for employees in shops or restaurants. Or why not follow a tourist guide through the virtual Berlin and take this as preparation for your next city trip. You will already be familiar with different sites and points of your interest, thus getting across town when you will be really there should be a bit easier and you may enjoy it even more.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

NASA to add 'space hotel' to ISS, in privatization push

Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.

Image: Axiom Space
Politics & Current Affairs
  • NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
  • The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
  • The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

Keep reading Show less
Videos

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast