Learning a language is facilitated in a virtual environment with opportunities to use audio in a non-threatening venue, quickly change settings to encourage use of diverse vocabulary, and practice with native speakers from different geographic locations and accents.The particular English Language class I observed took advantage of a traditional lecture and presentation board, using both the native tongue of the learners as well as the target language, English. Students responded to questions in local chat providing the instructor an easy way to ascertain grasp of the topic. One strategy that Alfonso Perfferle uses in his English for Spanish Speakers class on Second Life is to pair students and assign one member of the pair a note-card with questions associated with the topic or grammatical focus of the day. Pairs of students then conduct a private voice call and practice speaking, using the note-card as a guide. Text is available, as needed, for clarification. The paired chat does not disturb other students and can be practiced and repeated in a trusting environment.
Responses from students in local chat allows for quick formative evaluation.
In addition to the structured and more formal activity pictured here, this class of English Language learners logon from remote locations around the world to participate in "field trips" providing an opportunity to practice English in a variety of settings from shopping and restaurants to amusement parks and historic sites. Time zones and physical locations are secondary factors in this particular classroom, the instructor is physically located in Miami, Florida while the majority of students are located in Spain.