University of Southampton (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN10 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 4282-4287
ISBN: 978-84-613-9386-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Second Life has become the most popular (non-gaming) virtual world with over 1.5 million users. Its success has come from its easy to use interface, global media coverage and its free-to-use policy. Second Life also allows, assuming you have the correct permissions, to build objects within its environment and develop scripts to run within them. It is this functionality that is used to develop its educational areas, such as virtual lecture theatres (with streamed media), interactive (and dynamic) models and virtual presentations. Second Life is closely linked to other online information stores. For example links to websites can be given to the user by exhibits as note cards, allowing users to expand the learning experience as they wish.

The Virtual Chemistry Experience (ViCE) project, funded by Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (LATEU) at the University of Southampton, have generated a number of Second Life exhibits designed to promote teaching of chemistry to a wide range of ages. These exhibits focused mainly on molecular docking in protein structures, although visualisations in spectroscopic techniques and molecular symmetry have also been produced. The main work was split into three levels: basic understanding of molecular shape, concepts of certain stimuli interacting with a given receptor and molecular docking in the dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) enzyme; a possible prevention for the spread of malaria. Each of these are visualised in Second Life, allowing the user to interact and control the exhibit with a supporting website providing more detail of the work carried out.

The exhibits have been demonstrated at the National Science and Engineering Week family day event run at the University of Southampton and to prospective students at a recruitment outreach event. The exhibits were deemed a success with the majority of feedback suggesting this teaching method (for this material) more engaging than standard text books and the participants would use Second Life again as a learning tool.
Second Life, Virtual laboratory.