Lecturer goes virtual for graduate seminar

16 January 2008 | Story by Helen Théron

PhD student (film and media studies), Marion Walton, went out of her skin to teach a recent graduate seminar for master's students from London University's Institute of Education. The seminar, which focused on the role-playing subcultures, is part of their research project.

In what could be a first for UCT, she taught the class, Learning from Online Worlds, in situ, in the virtual world Second Life.

Second Life is a 3D virtual world created by its members who take up residence in customised atavars, which represent them. Walton, who teaches animation and 3D graphics at UCT, had to create a virtual person in her own image '“ with some custom-built attributes and gear '“ and even built a venue for the class, a rooftop setting.

"The experience ' has given me a new perspective on my job as a lecturer," she wrote in her blog.

"Once you've taught in a medium which requires you to connect your physical appearance entirely by pixels and code, and where so many aspects of your identity are customisable, down to the very last freckle and eyelash, you learn to be grateful for the simple user interface of the skin."

Running the class in Second Life had been a novel way of getting students to experience the "staggering creativity and interesting conventions of subcultures".

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