During my stint as guest author on Terra Nova I interviewed Aaron Walsh about his virtual reality teaching experiences. I actually participated in some of the early virtual teaching demos that Aaron organized at Boston College three or four years ago, and it was very interesting to hear from him (and his students, who responded in the Terra Nova comments) about how he has applied these technologies to actual coursework. He was very frank about some of the advantages and drawbacks of teaching in a virtual world, and he also discussed the Immersive Education initiative.
Since then, I have received several announcements about Immersive Education that I'd like to share here. The first is that Aaron and the other folks working on Immersive Education have issued an open call to educators, students, and professionals who have used VR or videogame technologies (such as Second Life, Croquet, X3D, Panda3D, Quake, Unreal, Torque Game Engine, etc.) to help contribute best practices and take part in the process for establishing standards for VR learning. The second is that the New Media Consortium, an educational organization whose members include hundreds of colleges and universities interested in exploring new learning technologies, has signed on to the Immersive Education development plan.
Immersive Education is a worthy endeavor, and I hope to contribute to the dialogue -- I am fully convinced that virtual reality/virtual worlds are the future of distance education, more so than the streaming video/static HTML/text forum model that many schools now use. I hope to be in a better position to contribute to the discussion this fall, if I can take Virtual Worlds -- the Second Life-based class offered through the Harvard Extension School.