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The Art Institute Online to Teach Courses in Second Life

The Art Institute Online, a division of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, has opened a student campus in Second Life, a virtual online community, to teach a new Business Communications course. The faculty realized students would be interested in learning in a virtual 3D environment, which would also serve for the course's development.

Developed by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, Second Life is a rapidly growing and constantly changing 3D MUVE (multi-user virtual environment) where residents can discover a world of exploration, socializing, creativity, self-expression and learning. The online society uses realtime 3D streaming technology and runs on proprietary software that students can download from the Second Life website at www.secondlife.com.

The Art Institute Online students and faculty may create avatars -- or cartoon-like characters -- that interact with one another and are controlled via keyboard and mouse. The course will be primarily asynchronous and students will have the opportunity to communicate in an environment that lends itself to socialization.

The course will involve both constructivism (learning by doing) and simulation-based learning. By providing real-world objects, structures and scenarios, student will be able to apply business processes and techniques associated with the real world to this virtual environment.

"An environment such as this takes advantage of lateral and community-based learning," said Jeannie Novak, academic program director, Game Art & Design/Media Arts & Animation at The Art Institute Online. "We are always striving to create that within our current 2D online courses and this certainly takes lateral learning to the next level."

"We are very excited to be a part of something so revolutionary," said Kate Kelleher, vp of The Art Institute Online. "Our venture into Second Life is a wonderful complement to our creative online education and is sure to provide our students with an innovative and quality learning experience."

In Second Life, classmates and instructors won't just communicate in chat rooms; they'll actually see one another -- or, at least, digital alter egos -- on screen.

"Students will always know they're taking a course," said Novak. "But they'll be playing a game in the process, which is what serious gaming is all about."

The Art Institute Online joins other colleges and universities that have set up campuses on virtual islands, where classes meet and students interact in realtime. "I believe The Art Institute Online is truly revolutionizing online learning by developing this innovative course," said Novak.

The Art Institute Online, a division of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, delivers education in the creative arts through the Internet, extending the opportunity for learning to all students desiring classes by eliminating geographic, lifestyle or physical constraints. With online courses designed using the same curriculum delivered through The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

The Art Institute Online (www.aionline.edu) offers associate's and bachelor's degree programs from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Graphic Design and Interactive Media Design; bachelor's degree programs in Advertising, Fashion & Retail Management, Game Art & Design, Interior Design and Media Arts & Animation; a bachelor's degree completion program in Culinary Management; and diploma programs in Digital Design, Residential Planning, and Web Design.

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh is one of The Art Institutes (www.artinstitutes.edu), with 34 education institutions located throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion, and culinary arts professionals.

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