If You Virtually Build It, They Will Virtually Check It Out
Second Life is a 3-D online virtual world with a program called "Campus Second Life," which encourages professors to teach courses inside Second Life's confines.
The program provides free semester long access for the teacher and students as well as virtual land for the class to "build" any structures they choose.
In a spring 2004 class an urban planning, Brockett Davidson, then a fourth year architecture student, was given an assignment to create an object, space or event in the virtual world that would foster interaction. Interested in the role of religion and spiritually, he decided to build a "sacred space" where denizens could come to discuss such issues.
Mr. Davidson chose has site - a serene virtual nature preserve - carefully, and spent 16 hours using the program's built-in tools to construct an attractive domed and pillared open-air space. He then organized an event to discuss spirituality in Second Life, drawing a dozen or so participants.
The space worked just as he had hoped, first fostering a group discussion in the central, circular chamber, and later on one-one exchanges in the alcoves he had built expressly for the purpose - a kind of direct feedback not available with drawings restricted to pencil and paper, Mr. Davidson noted.
"In my other classes, I'll make digital models, but none of those designs get built," he said. "Here, the exercise is itself a building that will actually affect people "
New York Times, 8/3/05