Constructive Engagement: Second Life in the Composition Classroom

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Samuelson, Richard Nathan
Second Life; Composition; Engagement Theory; Constructivism; Other Rhetoric and Composition
thesis / dissertation description
The recent development of digital tools has spurred educators to think differently about how they teach and how they can use computers in their classrooms. The use of virtual worlds, in particular Second Life, in higher education has been the focus of quite a few studies, although few if any researchers have evaluated the value of Second Life in a hybrid implementation of a first year composition course. This thesis is based on such an experiment—in the fall of 2010, I taught 23 students in a hybrid English 101 course that included Second Life in the first three assignments. The findings are based on data collected from two student surveys, five student interviews, course work, emails, screenshots, and observations collected over the course of the semester. While the majority of the students experienced difficulties getting the program to work and became resistant to it as a result, they also acknowledged its value and demonstrated improved engagement and learning in many instances. In this account, I detail the specific experiences that illustrate these findings, the similar and dissimilar experiences of other Second Life researchers, a number of best practices based on this study’s successes and shortcomings, and possible areas for future research.