Teaching an Employment Law Class in Second Life
My last post on pedagogy before turning to other more random subjects… A few years ago, I taught a seminar and was able to conduct two of the class sessions in Second Life. My classes since then have been larger, so I have not been able to replicate the experience (yet), but I found it valuable for a few reasons. First was the subject matter. We were studying employment discrimination, and we had spent a significant amount of time talking about identity performance at work – gender roles, covering, branding – as well as unconscious bias. The students had to pick their avatars, and they could choose how they would look in Second Life. I made my avatar look like the way I look when I show up to class – yes, that’s me, with the red curly hair and the business suit. But I told the students to make any choice they wanted. After all, on Second Life, you just click a button and your hair changes color. Maybe you want to be taller. Or a different gender. Maybe you’d rather be a dinosaur than a human.
So part of the experience was just selecting an avatar and then discussing why the students picked the avatars that they did. The next part, though, was seeing Second Life as a place where work could be performed. The students learned how we could talk to each other, either by talking into a microphone or by instant messaging each other; they saw how we could share documents. Finally, we went to different sites that had advertised that they were hiring virtual workers. In short, the students got to appreciate the potential of what I have in my academic writing termed “virtual work.”
We were not in the same room during the second class session – I took attendance by avatar that day – and so some students were in the classroom, others were at the computer lab, and others were at their apartments. I ran the class session from the privacy of my office. Because we knew each other and had a rapport in real life, we were able to connect with each other online and enjoy a fun and interactive classroom experience.