Virtual Worlds: Second Life

Hello, there! It's been a while since  Pio's last post. She promises she will be sharing her experiences in virtual worlds again. This year we have several great events and many more adventures happening in Second Life, Kitely, Open Sim and other virtual worlds.

WE were invited by Rob Howard the founder of EFLtalks to participate in a really interesting project called EFLtalks 10 in 10 for terms.  This project is about building a teacher's video glossary of day to day terminology that teachers and trainers use. EFLtalkers will be defining the terms as well as explaining why, where and where to use the concept in their teaching.

This time, we are sharing a post on the state of the art of my favorite virtual world: Second Life and how it's used to teach and learn a new language.

What are virtual worlds?

So, let's get started by defining what virtual worlds are. Berns et al (2013) define VWs as 3-D immersive persistent environments where users’ graphical representations, called avatars can interact with other avatars experiencing a feeling of being there with them as well as interacting with objects within environments  that are highly similar to the real world’s appearance, offering varied possibilities of interaction.

What is Second Life about?

Second Life is as its website describes it, "A free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat." It's owned by the San Francisco-based firm Linden Lab and launched on 2003. This year is its 14th birthday. Second Life users (also called residents) create virtual representations of themselves, called avatars, and are able to interact with places, objects, and other avatars. They can explore the world (known as the grid), meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, build, create, shop, and trade virtual property and services with one another. Teachers can also create engaging interactive 3D learning experiences where students can immerse, interact and learn in a fun way.

How can teachers teach and students learn in this virtual world? 

Teachers and students teach and learn through the use of avatars. They interact with places, others avatars or diffent objects. This encounters in virtual worlds can happen in formal or informal situations, synchronous or asynchronous exchanges, work in groups or one to one. 

Virtual world educational projects can profit from blended learning. Language learners are exposed to a 3D virtual environment for a specific activity or time period. Their classes may combine the use of virtual worlds with other online and offline tools, such as 2D virtual learning environments (e.g. Moodle) or physical classrooms. 

Calongne, (2008)  points out that virtual world learning experiences are fun. Class can be held on the beach, in another country, in outer space, or in any simulated setting. Students do not need to be confined to a traditional class setting, with chairs facing forward, but can instead move within the learning environment, communicate via text or voice, offer information or ask questions whenever they like (without being impolite), and correspond with classmates and friends via private messaging.

6 possible ways to view an educational activity.

Lim K. (2009), proposes The "Six learnings framework"a pedagogical outline developed for virtual world education in general. It sets out six possible ways to view an educational activity.

Exploring: learners explore a virtual world's locations and communities as fieldwork for class.
Collaborating: learners work together within a virtual world on collaborative tasks.
Being: learners explore themselves and their identity through their presence in a virtual world, such as through role-play.
Building: learners construct objects within a virtual world.
Championing: learners promote real life causes through activities and presentations in a virtual world.
Expressing: learners represent activities within a virtual world to the outside world, through blogs, podcasts, presentations and videos.

Approaches  to language education in virtual worlds

Task-based learning: TBL offers an alternative for language teachers. In a task-based lesson the teacher doesn't pre-determine what language will be studied, the lesson is based around the completion of a central task and the language studied is determined by what happens as the students complete it. 

Project-based learning: PBL is a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which it is believed that students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. Students learn about a subject by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge, or problem.

DogmeDogme language teaching is an approach that is essentially communicative, focusing mainly on conversation between learners and teacher rather than conventional textbooks.

GamificationGamification is directly related to instruction—using game “elements” such as badges, leaderboards, and competition to teach skills. Gamification Strategy: Design a scavenger hunt, and use badges and leaderboards to show individual progress. Include badges for collaboration. This promotes individual accomplishment, as well as collaboration.

Free language Schools in SL

VIRTLANTIS is a free language learning resource and community of practice in the virtual world of Second Life®.

Cypris Chat is a not-for-profit virtual world English language learning community. 
Cypris Chat is not a school, however, we offer “practice times” in the form of organized lessons, discussions, chats, events, and activities.  Come see for yourself just how exciting this new way of learning can be.

E-Language Center is a free language learning community.

Language Teacher Training Opportunities

  • The SLanguages conference is a free annual 24-hours event, bringing together practitioners and researchers in the field of language education in Second Life.
  • The Virtual Round Table conference takes place twice a year, focusing on language teaching technologies. A substantial part of the conference takes place in Second Life.
  • The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive 3D environments.
  • The Electronic Village Online (EVO), has been offering free professional development workshops for English language educators around the world. Organized by volunteer coordinators, with five-week sessions conceived and facilitated by teams of volunteer moderators, the EVO is open to anyone (TESOL members and non-members alike) with a computer or smart phone and an internet connection. No academic credit is offered for either moderating or participating in an EVO session; it is a labor of love--the love of learning, and the love of sharing what we have learned.
  • The EVOvillage sessions  focus on applying games in virtual teaching – using ideas from f2f and transferring them to virtual language learning, creating new games in virtual worlds using the affordances VWs have to offer, AND making machinima to demonstrate how the games work. Participants work together and learn to build, script, texture, and pack games into holodecks ready to take to students.
  • SLMOOC  is an online educational course aimed at promoting virtual reality environments as learning platforms. 


  • Anke Berns, Antonio Gonzalez-Pardo, and David Camacho. 2013. Game-like language learning in 3-D virtual environments. Comput. Educ. 60, 1 (January 2013), 210-220. DOI=
  • Expressing: learners represent activities within a virtual world to the outside world, through blogs, podcasts, presentations and videos.
  • Expressing: learners represent activities within a virtual world to the outside world, through blogs, podcasts, presentations and videos.
  • Calongne, C. (2008) Educational Frontiers: Learning in a Virtual World EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 5 (September/October 2008). Retrieved from 
  • Lim K. (2009) "Pedagogy, Education and Innovation in 3-D Virtual Worlds", Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 2,1:
  • Kozlova, I., & Priven, D. (2015). ESL teacher training in 3D virtual worlds. Language Learning & Technology, 19(1), 83–101. Retrieved from


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