Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

8-2011

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Arts in English, Rhetoric and Composition

Department

English

Major Advisor

Thomas Peele, Ph.D.

Abstract

The recent development of digital tools has spurred educators to think differently about how they teach and how they can use computers in their classrooms. The use of virtual worlds, in particular Second Life, in higher education has been the focus of quite a few studies, although few if any researchers have evaluated the value of Second Life in a hybrid implementation of a first year composition course. This thesis is based on such an experiment—in the fall of 2010, I taught 23 students in a hybrid English 101 course that included Second Life in the first three assignments. The findings are based on data collected from two student surveys, five student interviews, course work, emails, screenshots, and observations collected over the course of the semester. While the majority of the students experienced difficulties getting the program to work and became resistant to it as a result, they also acknowledged its value and demonstrated improved engagement and learning in many instances. In this account, I detail the specific experiences that illustrate these findings, the similar and dissimilar experiences of other Second Life researchers, a number of best practices based on this study’s successes and shortcomings, and possible areas for future research.

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