Field research in Second Life: Strategies for discussion group facilitation and benefits of participation
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This chapter explores the educational potential of discussion groups situated in three-dimensional (3D) virtual worlds. Virtual discussion groups are examined from the following perspectives: the benefits and challenges of participation and the best practices in terms of effective discussion group moderation. The authors start by describing the benefits of online discussion groups and continue by identifying strategies on how to facilitate such meetings effectively, with a focus on techniques promoting a sense of community. The authors will discuss the major themes that emerged from the content analysis of field notes, an ethnographic journal, and interviews with a discussion group member after immersion in various discussion groups in Second Life. An understanding of the communication modalities (voice and text-chat) and the principles of social interaction may help educators use virtual learning environments effectively. Guidelines for discussion group moderation are presented throughout the chapter.