‘The Role of New Technologies in Global Societies’ July 30-31, 2008 Hong Kong


• Second Life is a virtual world that has grown exponentially since its inception in 2003. Currently over 13 million ‘residents’ have accounts with Second Life, and more than 500 universities are experimenting with, or offering classes in, this new medium. But is it all hype and vapour, or are virtual worlds a serious tool for teaching and learning, and for other social or economic activities? Second Life was inspired by Stevenson’s Snow Crash – a futuristic novel written in 1992 in which the Metaverse takes over from the Internet and imagines how a 3D virtual internet might evolve controlled by avatars that inhabit this virtual world. Second Life is one of over 250 virtual worlds that exist today for children, teens and adults, ranging from Neopets for under 10-year olds with over 45 million registered users, to Habbo for teens, with over 90 million accounts. Estimates (Mitham, 2008) put the total number of accounts in fully immersive virtual worlds at more than 238 million, and the phenomena is growing so rapidly, that China expects to have 150 million virtual world users by 2010. How will this affect our use of the Internet, our social interactions, collaboration and communication in the future? Will our children grow us as avatars with a human personality, will there be a need for teachers or schools as we know them in the future, will our children go to work in a virtual world rather than travel to the office, or is this just another trend or phase that will pass in time? This paper explores the background to virtual worlds, examines how they are being used in education and business today, and tries to evaluate the potential and pitfalls for teachers considering entering a virtual world. It looks at examples of how Second Life has been used in teaching and learning and the potential for educational use and for developing business and commerce. It also reviews the potential impact of virtual worlds in the Chinese mainland, and looks ahead at the time when every Internet user may have a ‘second’ life in a virtual world. KEY WORDS: online education, virtual worlds, second life, simulations



Virtual Worlds Data
362 multi-user online role-playing games listed (Wikipedia) Over US$1.5 Billion spent in VW’s in 2007 China expects to have 150 Million VW users by 2010 (Guardian 2008)


Virtual Worlds - Data
Population of USA = 304.83 Million (August 08)

Population of virtual worlds est. between 2601 to 4652 Million with est. 46M active users.
Mitham, 08 2Renaud, Oct 07



Virtual Worlds - Data
Population of Australia = 20.4 Million (2007) Population of Cyworld = 21 Million (2008)


238 Million +

160 Million +



Impact on Individuals/Society
How will VW’s affect our use of the Internet, our social interactions, collaboration and communication in the future? Will our children grow up as avatars? Will there be a need for teachers or schools as we know them in the future? Will our children go to work in a virtual world rather than travel to the office? Is this just another passing fad?

Outline of this Exploratory Study
Explore the background to virtual worlds. Examine how they are being used today. Review how Second Life has been used in teaching and learning. Consider the potential for education & life. Project the growth of virtual worlds in the Chinese mainland. Look ahead to the time when every Internet user may have a ‘second’ life in a virtual world.


What are Virtual Worlds?
From Wikipedia: “A computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. This habitation usually is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids (or other avatars).”

Not Simulations Not games Open ended – users choose the outcome and the activity


Common Features
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Shared Space: the world allows many users to participate at once. Graphical User Interface: the world depicts space visually. Immediacy: interaction takes place in real time. Interactivity: the world allows users to alter, develop, build, content. Persistence: continues regardless of whether individual users are logged in. Socialization/Community: the world allows and encourages the formation of in-world social groups.


What is Second Life?
Launched in 2003 Created by Linden Research (Labs). An immersive environment for users to play and interact in. The size of a small city, with thousands of servers (simulators) No of registered islands 21,657 (July)


Who is using Second Life?
SL has registered population (28 July) of 14,537,201 Residents from over 100 countries with concentrations in North America, Germany and the UK. Demographically, 60% are men, 40% are women aged from 18 - 85.



The Basics
Your own avatar Create you own space or not Walk, run, fly or teleport Chat, voice, IM or Skype others

Who is using SL?
100+ Corporations such as IBM, Motorola, Armani, Domino Pizza, Mercedes, Reuters, Coca Cola, Nike etc

Embassies, the arts, music, religion


Educational use of SL
Formal teaching
lectures, tutorials, training, presentations, demonstrations.

Informal education offers more exploration and creativity
student exhibitions, role play, games and virtual quests (Bleacher & Stockman, 2008).


Subject Areas
The most common uses of Second Life seem to be in:
computer studies, science subjects and humanities (Livingstone & Kemp, 2007), architectural studies, urban planning, graphic design, anatomy, natural sciences, law, languages, programming, literature, art and tourism. Dickey (2005)


PolyU Virtual Campus

152 HK students using SL in 4 classes 18


152 HK students using 19 SL in 4 classes

Benefits for Teaching & Learning
Students enjoyed using it It was an interactive learning experience It was a positive student learning experience It provided a new dimension for my subject It gave some variety to the subject



Teaching challenges
Setting up Second Life & Technical issues Need time to get students familiar with SL Lack of experience in using Second Life Not enough time for the session or tutorial Lack of computing facilities for students. Often need to rely on technicians. Some technical problems with voice chat


How to improve the use of SL?
Promote to our students Make it default install on all University PCs Include university IT Dept in planning. Video a few online sessions and present the video to senior management, other staff and students to get buy-in. Continue to let faculty know how it can be used as a teaching tool.



Other Problems
Technical hurdles – graphic cards, speed Learning curve User expectations Crime, sex, money & politics Most problems in real world exist in SL!

Virtual worlds in China
China's Internet population surpassed the US to become the world's biggest, with 253 million people online – 56% increase from a year ago (China Internet Network

Information Center, 2008)

The share of the Chinese public using the Internet is still just 19.1 percent, leaving more room for rapid growth.



Virtual worlds in China
10 Chinese virtual worlds under development HiPiHi largest with 48,000 registered users Others include:
UWorld NovoKing Jaolan Shanda


Virtual worlds in China
UWorld has fewer than 1,000 users. NovoKing has 10,000 registered users Shanda plans to launch its own version of Second Life, a community targeting parents with children under 6 or parents-to-be


World’s largest Virtual World
China Recreational District - a partnership between private industry & Chinese government CRD’s goal - to create a virtual economy providing infrastructure and platforms so any business (in China & overseas) - can come inworld & sell their real-world products/services. 200 game and multimedia content producers are currently on site in an 80-square-kilometer complex still being developed in West Beijing Between now and the end of 2010, CRD, intends to bring 150 million middle-class Chinese people and companies into their virtual world platform.

Future trends
Merging of some virtual worlds Take your avatar and teleport between various virtual worlds Strong case for virtual meetings and conferences Growing use for in-company communication & collaboration Increasing use for conducting business Merging of VLE/LMS into VW’s


Convergence of VW & Social Networking sites
Virtual worlds ARE already social networking sites, to some degree; On social networking sites you play yourself, while in virtual worlds, you play someone else. Google launched ‘Lively’ VW on 8 June 08 – to lure Facebook/My Space users
Will virtual worlds and social networking sites combine? (Moore, 2008)

Virtual Worlds continue to grow
There is an ever increasing amount of people using virtual worlds at a rate of 15% every month and does not appear to be stopping or slowing down anytime soon.
(Hof, 2006d; Gartner, 2007 cited by Bray and Konsynski 2007).


Bleacher, L, and Stockman, S. (2008). Second Life: A Venue for Informal Education and Participatory Exploration. Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIX Bray, D. A., Konsynski, B. (2008) Virtual Worlds, Virtual Economies, Virtual Institutions. Virtual Worlds and New Realities Conference at Emory University, February 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2008 from China Internet Network Information Centre (2008). Statistical Survey Report on the Internet Development in China. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from Dickey, M. D. (2005). Three-dimensional virtual worlds and distance learning: two case studies of Active Worlds as a medium for distance education. British Journal of Educational Technology 36(3): 439-451. Keegan. V. (2008). Virtual worlds take over the online world. The Guardian, Thursday July 10 2008, Retrieved July 15, 2008 from Livingstone, D,, Kemp, J. (2008). Massively Multi-Learner: Recent Advances in 3D Social Environments. Retrieved March 28, 2008 from Mitham, N. (2008). Virtual Worlds by The Numbers: Today and The Future: Virtual Worlds Expo 2008 (NYC) Retrieved April 9, 2008 from Moore. R. (2008). On the Convergence of Virtual Worlds and Social Networking Sites. Retrieved on July 3, 2008 from Renaud in Virtual Worlds News (2007) Blogging Virtual Worlds Fall: Keynote-Chris Sherman, Reuben Steiger, Christian Renaud. Retrieved July 22, 2008 from Wikipedia (2008) Virtual world. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from 31

Contact details
Paul Penfold, Educational Development Manager School of Hotel & Tourism Management The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (852) 2766-4092 Skype: paulpenfold Blog: Wiki:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes. - Marcel Proust Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. B.F. Skinner What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand. - Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius) I never teach my students; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. - Albert Einstein Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. - Gandhi I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. - Socrates



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