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A 'Second' chance to study abroad

Second Life is being used by some schools for a scaled-down version of studying abroad, as more money is being poured into virtual world start-ups.

These days, what can't be accomplished in real life is likely doable in Second Life. The virtual world even allows for study abroad.

'Second Life' avatars gather in the virtual world
Avatars gather at the New Media Consortium Campus, just one of many campuses in 'Second Life.' Second Life

According to an article in The Christian Science Monitor, several universities and even the U.S. Department of State are using Second Life to spread culture and experience to people who can't afford pricey semesters overseas. This year, Ohio University noticed that its virtual campus was party to many visitors from around the world. The foreign students interacted with the campus' avatars in an attempt to learn more about American culture.

Most notably, the idea was employed by the Dubai Women's College in the United Arab Emirates. The small school used Second Life to virtually meet and practice English with Korean students, visit Darfur, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca--opportunities that would normally require lots of cash and traveling to accomplish.

Teachers at the school said Second Life is an aid for students to learn about foreign cultures and obtain experience for international business.

The article also notes that the U.S. Department of State is jumping on the Second Life bandwagon by inviting avatars from other countries to American virtual concerts and art exhibits, in order to engage in public diplomacy.

The number of virtual worlds continues to grow as companies introduce Second Life alternatives. On Tuesday, Google announced the launch of "Lively," a new online social destination.

Wednesday, Virtual Worlds Management, a virtual world trade media company, announced investors are pouring millions into new such virtual destinations. As a result of recent research, the company found that venture capital and media firms invested more than $161 million dollars in 16 virtual world-related companies during the second quarter of 2008, added to the $184 million dollars invested in 23 companies during the first quarter of the year.