LanguageLab.com is now open for beta testing. Students will be able to sign up for language classes that meet entirely in Second Life.
Classes are small, generally 6 to 8 students, and run for 50 minutes. Events are larger scale learning experiences that allow students the opportunity to practice their new language in realistic settings, with teachers and native speakers on hand to act out the events and help students to both observe and participate.
Although I don’t know anything about this project outside of the information provided on their website, I think it is a fascinating proposition for teaching a language by distance. The students can join the class from wherever they are and interact with each other and the instructor in real time. The class is delivered in a malleable, highly customizable environment which allows the instructor to place students in any number of possible environments – a train station, grocery store, you name it – for various types of activities.
I can imagine a class to feel more like an immersion experience for the student than sitting in a class reading text from a book and memorizing vocabulary on flashcards. Instead they can be moving through a space together as if they were on a field trip sharing the same visual and environmental cues. Don’t get me wrong – I learned a great deal of Russian doing just that – sitting around a table with my classmates for 8 hours a day reading text and doing speaking drills, but the challenge of reaching the same outcomes in a distance-delivered class requires a re-thinking of traditional delivery and I’m excited to see this sort application of SL for language learning.