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Get a Second Life

To quell my nagging remorse about the PhD program I never finished (and swear I will one day), I often find myself perusing online degree programs of major universities. This will be the subject of other discussions because once again it places technology in education in the position of vanguard of a revolution. Today’s observation represents a flashpoint in that revolution. Bryant & Stratton College, a 150 year old institution of higher learning will bestow degrees upon its graduates where they earned them—online. But here’s the kicker: the ceremony will be a virtual one fully hosted on Second Life (which you likely know is a very popular Internet-based 3D virtual world).

The procession, the commencement speaker and the conferring of degrees to students (who will be draped in digital caps and gowns) will be a private affair attended only by family and friends. A formal graduation ceremony performed in Second Life has not been has not been done before. But the college is really no stranger to Second Life.

The Bryant & Stratton campus in Second Life is open to the public 24/7. One can visit the Student Recreation Pavilion where students come to meet and socialize and get to know each other. There is an outdoor amphitheater which hosts a series of educational guest speakers that address degree specific industry topics. There is even an open house building for prospective students to meet with staff from admissions, financial aid, and even current students to get a better feel for the college. A large, active education community—with hundreds of K-12 and higher education members—is engaged in Second Life. The Open University, Harvard, Texas State, and Stanford are just a few of the big names that have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.

So if you are like me, and the only association you ever made with Second Life was the spate of divorces ensuing from spouses cheating with avatars, perhaps it is time to check in with the course of its evolution.