Second Life Education in New Zealand (SLENZ), funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, determined how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), in this case Second Life, could benefit New Zealand tertiary education.
The project supported two groups of educators in two pilot projects, one in Foundation Studies and the second in Midwifery. The project aimed to demonstrate the educational strengths of learning in a virtual world to both educators and students by positioning the students in virtual scenarios that were appropriate to their studies. The midwifery students entered a normal birthing scenario and were able to interact with the woman in labour, making decisions in the same way as they would in the real world. The Foundation students entered a skills mastery hyperdome where they could develop and hone their job search and application skills.
Using virtual worlds as a learning resource was deemed to be highly engaging for learners and offered them the opportunity to practice skills in a situation that was imitating real life but that was not causing any real life risks. There were barriers for the learners, for example, in order to get the most out of the virtual world, it is imperative that the learner is able to control the avatar and manoeuvre around the world, and this takes considerable time to master. Also, the hardware and Internet requirements have to be of a high enough specification in order for Second Life to run at the optimum level. Overall, this innovative project has been a success and has won international awards.