April 20, 2007

High school students experience Case through the virtual world of Second Life

Student ambassador avatars welcome future students to a virtual campus through a pioneering college admissions recruitment effort

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Case Western Reserve University is embarking on an innovative initiative to attract prospective students using the 3D digital world known as Second Life. While other colleges and universities are using Second Life for academic purposes, Case may be the first university in the country to use it to recruit high school students as well. This spring, Case invited students who were accepted into its Fall 2007 class to visit its new virtual campus in Second Life.

Some five million people have explored the virtual world of Second Life. Among those is Mir Bear-Johnson, a Case first-year student who greets high school students on the university's Second Life campus.

Bear-Johnson created a 3D avatar, or virtual persona, with the name Mir Benelli, to interact with other avatars on OneCleveland, the Second Life island being developed by Case and Cleveland partners including Cleveland Clinic and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The pre-med biology major is one of Case's student ambassadors who meets high school students in Second Life.

"Students have already had most of their general questions answered through campus visits," Bear-Johnson says. "Now they want the nitty-gritty information about double-majoring in subjects like music and mathematics and how it's done, and what campus food is really like."

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Although avatars cannot actually taste the campus's food offerings, through Second Life, Bear-Johnson is able to meet prospective students at Case's diner and chat over a virtual bowl of soup. Prospective students who enter Case's Second Life campus can explore various campus facilities including the campus library and the new residence village where rooms look out onto the new football field and stadium.

The Second Life project is a new way for Case's Office of Undergraduate Admission to reach prospective students. "We're giving students a chance to sample our innovative use of technology to support their success and their learning experience while they are here in Cleveland, in University Circle and at Case Western Reserve University," says Jonathan Wehner, associate director of undergraduate admission at Case. Wehner (avatar: Jonathan Friis) and his team emailed all high school seniors admitted to Case and invited them to join him in Second Life.

Soon, university professors will be available to deliver lectures and answer questions in Second Life using live video and audio, Wehner says. Other plans are in the works too, including a concert on the football field where students can either join the band or dance as part of the audience.

College admissions may never be the same as more universities begin to use platforms like Second Life to attract students of the future to their campuses, Wehner says. "The Case Western Reserve University admission project is all about distinguishing us from other schools and giving our admitted students another opportunity to really get to know us before they make the all-important decision as to where they should enroll this fall," he says. "To some extent, this is an experiment for us. Whether the virtual campus in Second Life has an impact on admissions, we will not know—but at least students will have fun visiting Case."

While Case's Second Life initiative is targeted for this year's admitted students, any prospective student interested in Case can leap onto the Case Second Life island by visiting its undergraduate admission Web site between the hours of 8 p.m. and midnight EST, Sunday through Thursday.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, April 20, 2007 01:17 AM | News Topics: Campus Life, Cleveland, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Students, Technology

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.