The SLENZ Update – No 113, July 13, 2009

Case Study: Loyalist College

Big Improvement in  tests, training

outcomes with use of Second Life

Canada’s Loyalist College has often been held up as the benchmark in training benefits  for  the use  of Second Life  – not least by this blog –  but now a case study,  even though done by and being promoted by Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, presents a compelling case, despite the hyperbole,  for the benefits of Second Life training and teaching and learning.

The latest study, “Virtual World Simulation Training Prepares Real Guards on the US-Canadian Border: Loyalist College in Second Life,”  details how training simulations in Second Life have directly resulted in significantly improved test scores at Loyalist College, near Toronto, Ontario, and have directly applied to real-world on-the-job performance of the student participants.

The college’s move into training in Second Life followed  the post-September 11, 2001, abandonment of  on-the-job training – three weeks seconded to a professional border guard to experience the routine – with the result that traineees moved into the role less well-equipped to do the job.

In a bid to solve the problem the Director of Educational Technology at Loyalist College had a virtual border crossing simulation set up in Second Life.

Key: “Sense of presence”

“The amazing results of the training and simulation program have led to significantly improved grades on students’ critical skills tests, taking scores from a 56 percent success in 2007, to 95 percent at the end of 2008 after the simulation was instituted,”” according to the executive summary of the case study. “The success of the program has encouraged over 650 students and eight faculty to explore Second Life for mixed purposes. It has also generated enough interest and demand from other learning institutions that Loyalist established a Virtual Design Centre that employs former students with Second Life classroom experience to develop new virtual learning environments.”

The case  study notes that  its the “sense of presence” that makes the Second Life training simulation so effective: You actually feel like you’re in a “real” environment when you are in a virtual world, despite the fact that you’re physically sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

Professor Kathryn deGast-Kennedy (Journal of Virtual Worlds Research article here and pdf here),  the Coordinator of the Customs Border Services Program at Loyalist College, said, “Even though I have been a Border Services Officer for 28 years, I felt the same level of anxiety in the virtual border crossing as I did 28 years earlier. That experience made me a believer that working within Second Life was as real as it could get.”

“Second Life is amazing and unprecedented,”  Ken Hudson, managing director, Virtual World Design Center at Loyalist College, said.  “No single technological addition has ever impacted grades at the college in such a positive way. The affordable tools of Second Life allowed us to explore potential applications for education. Loyalist College believes strongly that were it not for Second Life, we would not be involved in virtual worlds whatsoever. The learning in these spaces is amazing, and when we are working with 30% increases in success, there is nothing more memorable than that.”


Cross a border – virtually but in reality too.