November 9, 2009, 10:00 AM ET
Second Life Duty Is Now Required for Penn State's Online Advisers
Denver -- Plenty of colleges have a presence in Second Life. Pennsylvania State University is taking that a step further. Academic advisers at the university’s online campus are now required to be available for meetings with students in the virtual world every week, a Penn State official said during last week’s Educause conference here.
Students on the real campus get to chat with their advisers face to face. Now online students who never set foot there can do the “exact same thing,” says Shannon Ritter, social-networks adviser for the Penn State World Campus.
Almost the same thing, anyway. Second Life requires users to choose avatars, or graphical representations of themselves. So students who want to meet with Rachel Zimmerman will find themselves chatting with a character called RachelM Snoodle. Looking for Karen Lesch? The adviser goes by KarenM Magic. All advisers are required to cover at least two hours a week.
Ms. Ritter, whose job involves using emerging technologies to build community with online students, says there hasn’t really been any resistance to the requirement – just adjustment to a new technology.
“Second Life has been a completely new thing to almost all the advisers,” she says. “And so at the beginning they aren’t really sure how to do anything. But we schedule training sessions and work with them on the basics. And once they're in there, they really enjoy it.”