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Will Second Life Upgrade Help Virtual Classrooms?

This week the makers of Second Life unveiled a new interface designed to make the virtual world more user-friendly, and some professors say it will help their educational experiments.

The new interface, called Second Life Viewer 2, looks more like a Web browser. The designers say their goal was to make it easy to find the navigation controls, and to find other people and events in the virtual space. And the new software makes it easier to browse Web pages within Second Life and watch YouTube videos and Flash multimedia.

Nergiz Kern, who runs a blog called Teaching in Second Life, wrote that the new interface seems easier and will make it easier to get students up to speed to participate in classes in the virtual world.

A recent survey of members of the New Media Consortium, a Texas-based higher-education-technology group, found that the steep learning curve of the old Second Life software was the biggest barrier to its educational use.

Some educators are now experimenting with open-source alternatives to Second Life, hoping to design virtual worlds better suited to use as virtual classrooms.

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