An Introduction and Orientation to Second Life for Online Health Informatics Students

Tuesday, 14 July 2009: 4:05 PM

Juliana J. Brixey, PhD, MSN, MPH, RN
University of Kansas School of Nursing, Kansas City, KS
Judith J. Warren, RN, PhD, FAAN
School of Nursing, University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS

Learning Objective 1: identify Second Life as a virtual environment for online teaching and simulation.

Learning Objective 2: to discuss learning activities in Second Life.


A challenging aspect of online teaching and learning has been encouraging interactions between students and faculty. This exchange can be facilitated using virtual environments such as Second Life (SL). Residents of SL interact with each other through avatars, a 3-D representation of self. Educators are increasingly utilizing SL for instruction, simulation, collaboration, and maintaining social networks. The purpose of this project is to introduce and orient online students to SL using simulated real world health informatics projects.   

System requirements
Students must have Internet access and computer specifications that meet the minimum requirements specified by SL. Students are required to have a microphone and headset for voice chat.

User Accounts

Students must establish a user account, download and install SL.  They then must create an avatar. Avatar names are submitted to faculty. It is recommended that the student use only one avatar for course work.

Course assignments
Students participate in numerous SL activities as specified in each informatics course. Activities include giving verbal and poster presentations, participating in course discussions led by faculty, searching for health information, and developing a clinical information system for a simulated community living center. Communication during a class or presentation relies on the voice chat feature of SL.

Second Life has been successfully integrated into the informatics curriculum.


The virtual environment provides students a space to socialize, network, problem-solve, and complete course projects. The voice chat is a valued feature of SL as it allows students and faculty to hear the sound and inflections of each voice. Sound and inflection are part of nonverbal communication, and add to the satisfaction of the faculty and students. A sense of professional community is formed through SL interactions.