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Virtual Campus at Valencia Community College: A unique approach Three-dimensional virtual worlds are no longer uniquely the subject

of science fiction or computer games but are becoming embedded in the fabric of 21st century social environment. Virtual Worlds have the ability to mirror or diverge from reality presenting the opportunity for collaboration, exploration, and role-playing, and for participation in a wide range of experiences in a safe and engaging way (Kelton, 2007). They differ from the structured environment found in a computer game in that there are no rules to determine a winner, nor are driven by competition or the intent of attaining a goal. People enter these users created virtual communities by adopting an avatar and venturing into an environment that is both similar and different from the real world. Second Life Developed by Linden Labs, Second Life is perhaps the most popular multi-user virtual environment and it is becoming increasingly prevalent in mainstream society. Second life is the largest Internet's user-created, 3D virtual world. If Second Life were a country it would have a population of 12 million inhabitants. This open source virtual community is part of the Web2.0 social media Internet applications. Similar to other social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space, it allows users to share media, connect with friends, and to experience a feeling of presence and connectedness to a community. Second Life goes beyond the two-dimensional and static nature of other social networking sites in that user-controlled avatars can navigate the environment by walking or flying, teleporting to other regions, and can make use of numerous gestures such as waving, dancing, or sitting down. Second Life at Valencia The user demographics for Second Life reveal 26 percent are between the ages of 18- to 24 years and 38 percent are between the ages 25 to 34. These combined user demographics represent two thirds of the Second Life accounts; a target population of great interest for higher education (Kelton, 2007). The student demographics for Valencia Community College reveal a still younger population clustered in the first adult bracket but when combined, mirror the profile of Second Life users. Fifty eight percent of students are grouped between the ages of 18 to 24 years and the median age of a Valencia student is 20 years (Office of Institutional Research, 2008). Sixteen percent of Valencia students are between the ages of 24-34. Nevertheless, the combined demographics Valencia students between the ages of 18-34 represent two-thirds of the student body. The Horizon Report of 2007 identified virtual worlds as an emerging technology likely to have a large impact in teaching and learning in Higher Education in two to three years adoption time. The prediction of the Horizon Project, a research oriented initiative conducted by Educause in collaboration with the New Media Consortium, seems to be reaching critical mass. (Difussion of innovation) More than 200 universities or academic institutions have a presence in Second life and there are 250 virtual islands devoted to educational purposes (Kelton, 2007). Approximately 700 instructors are using immersive environments such as Second Life to

provide an engaging context for teaching and learning in fields ranging from the Arts, Humanities, to Sciences. Faculty at Valencia Community College is among them.

The making of Virtual Valencia The virtual classroom: A case study Entropia SL