Even as virtual worlds recover from their ride on the ‘hype cycle’, they have become more accessible to the average computer user than ever before. Developments in technologies that support these worlds have enhanced their value for supporting communication, collaboration and experiential learning. However, the educational promise of these worlds continues to be balanced by their limitations. Creating an identity and learning the physical and cultural rules of a virtual world requires an investment of time, money and a certain amount of trust that participation is worth the effort. Most critically, the more open the world, the more likely it is to expose participants to inappropriate content and interactions. On the other hand, virtual worlds are a precursor of the more immersive online environments forecast for the near future; engaging with them now will give educators a head start on supporting the next generation of learners.
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