Today I came across this news story about a program in Maine to help adult students to achieve their GED's using a virtual learning platform (in this case, the JIBE virtual world.) While this seems like a worthwhile effort, I was struck by the claim that one of the goals of the project is to "reduce rural isolation" for students who can not get to a traditional class because of work or family obligations.
“We have a young mom who has no license. She’s a stay-at-home mom,” a teacher is quoted as saying. “This is nice for her. She can go in there and not be so lonely. It’s really doing its job of breaking the isolation.”
But watching the video, you can not help but notice that the presumed student avatar is almost completely alone during the entire experience. He has one brief encounter with someone who might be a teacher, they exchange some text chat, and then she runs off into the distance. Otherwise, he is simply wandering around empty corridors and clicking on objects.