This is the second installment of “Stories from Second Life,” an occasional series of profiles of the people behind Second Life innovations, and the tangible benefits that these individuals and their businesses have brought to both the virtual and the real worlds.
Hadrian Yorke rezzed on June 26, 2003 and later Edgware Marker (real life name David Kaskel) first rezzed in Second Life on April 23, 2004, buying his first land in Second Life. At the time he was a graduate student at the Center for Computing in Humanities at King’s College in Great Britain. His doctoral research was focused on looking at avatars as a theatrical paradigm, considering how much you as an individual are an audience for what your avatar is doing, and how much your avatar is a reflection of who you are. Among other projects, he worked on a visualization project for King’s College to recreate historic European theaters in Second Life. The theaters reflect different time periods and different locations including Britain, Germany, Italy and Greece. Designed to be learning theaters under the heading of King’s Visualization Lab, this project is still growing within Second Life.
Early in his Second Life experience, David paired up with master magician Starax Statosky and the two created a giant living room. Within the build they placed a large magnetic board with word magnets that could be manipulated to form sentences. It was the resulting collaborative play that led David to realize the potential of bringing people together in a virtual space to work together and learn.
In 2005 David laid out the idea for teaching English as a second language to the global audience within Second Life, and at the end of the year he incorporated Languagelab. At that point he decided to put all his focus on his new venture and by the fall of 2007 Languagelab was completing its beta. This year they enrolled their first paying students.
Today Languagelab operates exclusively in Second Life and has invested a significant amount in terms of R&D and testing to provide an unparalleled virtual learning space where students can be paired with highly qualified, innovative language teachers from around the world.
It’s long been known that immersion in an environment with native speakers is the best way to practice and learn a second language. And as David realized early on, the virtual world environment naturally lends itself to language learning, due to its immersive nature and ability to make learning contextually relevant to both situations and locations.
Using the creation tools in Second Life, Languagelab built “English City” where students learn to have contextual conversations with native speakers, for example, by sitting in a café and ordering food together. This methodology of supervised user driven instruction is called in Languagelab parlance; IAL (Instructor Assisted Learning.)
David’s company now has 250 students from countries such as Yemen, France, Brazil, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), China, India, Japan and Poland, registered to learn English in the immersive environment of Languagelab.
The company has also built a specific entry route from its website at www.languagelab.com and its own Registration Center in Second Life, enabling students to get up to speed quickly in the virtual environment and and providing support in choosing the best study plan.
Today Languagelab’s students pay a monthly subscription which gives them access to the City where they practice under teacher supervision to increase fluency. They also take structured classes in the classroom. Beginning in 2009 full courses will begin, and allow students to pay by the course or to maintain a subscription. David also plans to launch additional courses in 2009 including a 10 week elementary Spanish course. The company has 11 full-time employees in London, eight teachers and an instructional designer plus 20-30 part-time staff populating the City and providing technical support, Second Life skills training and voice set-up. If you’re interested in picking up a second language, visit Languagelab in Second Life, on Language Lab Island, or see their website.
It goes without saying that we’d love to feature more of these profiles, so we can continue to highlight the infinite number of ways the Second Life community is innovating. Is there a hidden gem that you feel is worth the spotlight? If so, please comment in this Second Life forum thread, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit more Second Life Grid success stories via the Solution Providers listing.