Early College Students Attend Classes in Virtual “Second Life”
Unlike other N.C. schools that have early college programs which require students to leave their home high schools and attend classes on a college campus, ECU’s program lets students take courses online, including via a unique three-dimensional environment called Second Life. A few Kinston North Carolina high school seniors are taking advantage of this new approach to online education. Students create personal avatars and attend classes virtually via avatars which allow them to interact with the professors and other students, much like physically being on campus and in the classroom.
While most are traditional online courses, the students have also learned about on-campus life through Second Life. They have visited ECU for orientation, met staff from ECU offices, including the registrar’s office, career services and admissions, all through Second Life. Many of their core and elective courses are now led by pioneering faculty members who have transitioned their courses into Second Life and altered their teaching styles to fit into the virtual world.
The students in the program feel that they are well prepared to continue their college education, as expressed by one Kinston HS senior, “The learning environment was less intimidating than a real classroom. Instead of actually seeing the professor face-to-face, you see and hear their avatar speaking to you through Second Life. When you need to talk, you don’t have to worry about having a classroom full of eyes staring at you while you speak. The other classmates hear you through Second Life, just as you hear your professor through Second Life.”
Currently, ECU’s unique Early College program is only offered to Pitt County students, but officials hope to extend the program beyond Pitt County. The program provides an opportunity for students who have the potential for college success but who may otherwise fall through the cracks. Students chosen for the program come from a variety of backgrounds and have generally fared as well as or better than students in other Early College programs. So far, eleven of the program’s 18 seniors have been admitted to ECU already, and the remaining students plan to attend college as well.
Not all early college programs involve eLearning. Many Learn and Earn Early College High Schools allow students to attend a high school located on a college campus, although several are connected to eLearning programs at some of the state’s two and four-year schools.
Below are links to learn more about this innovative program and well as early college.