Adventures in Second Life

Now that I have become a second-year student, I have the fun task of doing a placement module as well as theoretical-learning. However, unlike the majority of people in my year, I’ve managed to get lucky, and for this year get to help conduct research on “Using Psychological Simulations to Enhance Employability” (or, as everyone else seems to see it, I get paid to play Second Life with psychology students).
So far, we’ve run three simulations;

1) A mock-supermarket, where the students learn about how to find out and improve staff morale, and how to gauge what customers think of new products.

2) A counselling centre, where students watch a counselling session then practice an intake interview with a new client.

3) A Dragon’s Den style meeting, where students presented business ideas and competed for funding from “dragon” lecturers.

It’s actually been very interesting- we’ve taken over 100 students in small groups through the simulations, and most of them have really enjoyed it.
Now, I’m going to guess you might be wondering what the point of this research is? If so, it turns out that psychological research done in real-life can be accurately replicated in a virtual setting, because people behave in very similar ways online and offline. For example, people maintain their personal space at the same distance when interacting virtually.

The virtual counselling centre is probably the most engaging demonstration- there’s already been quite a lot of research into support groups in Second Life, and other methods of virtual counselling  such as via Skype, for people who would not get on well  with traditional methods.

Now that the first stage of the study-the actual simulations-has been completed, we’ve got the more difficult part left, which is analysis of what all the students thought, and writing this up into a formal scientific paper. The research is looking fairly promising so far, and I feel rather privileged to have got to help take part in it. Indeed, the study I’m taking part in will actually be published, or even potentially presented at virtual learning conferences.  Further updates to its progress, and more interesting things discovered during the study, will be published on here 🙂

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