Tutoring at a distance, online tutoring and tutoring in Second Life
journal contributionposted on 30.03.2011, 11:51 by David Hawkridge, Matthew Wheeler
Research into tutoring at a distance has a fairly long history and the functions of tutors in distance education institutions are well understood. Over the past 20 years research into online tutoring has advanced significantly as such institutions have 'gone electronic': in this paper we cite published research from the UK Open University. Recently, blogs, wikis and podcasts have arrived to supplement established systems like email, virtual learning environments (VLEs, such as Blackboard) and computer conferencing. Little research has been published so far, however, on tutoring distant students in three-dimensional multi-user virtual environments (3-D MUVEs). Distance educators may well ask whether the best practices from tutoring at a distance and online tutoring can be transferred to these environments, which do not resemble VLEs. To clarify what may or may not be feasible in a prime example of a 3-D MUVE, this paper elucidates tutoring by and through avatars on a Second Life Island created by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester (which has 7,000 students learning at a distance). It analyses what can be done in Second Life by way of meeting students' needs for tutoring, and discusses some of the opportunities and challenges inherent in asking students and tutors to meet in such an environment.