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Here’s a new approach to a long-distance interview: the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) reported Nov. 9 that academic advisors at Pennsylvania State University are now required to schedule at least two hours per week for meetings with students in the virtual world of Second Life.

As if personal meetings, phone conversations, email, texting, Skype, or iChat didn’t give enough options for communications already.

Some readers may be unfamiliar with Second Life (you can see an introductory video here). It’s basically a membership website through which one can enter a graphical 3-D virtual world and have a “Second Life” through an online avatar who can interact with other people, buy land, conduct business, or just about anything else. Many businesses, schools, and even churches have a presence in Second Life: a person can buy a car, attend a sales meeting, take a class, campaign for president, dance in a nightclub, or listen to a sermon — all while in your pajamas.

You can also (so I’ve heard), make new friends, try out life as the opposite gender, flesh out your alter ego, or have an online affair, complete with virtual hanky panky (check out this story). That sort of thing illustrates the two-edged nature of such sites: on they positive side they can be used for entertainment, for business, for serious conversations, and now for meetings with one’s academic advisor. But, they can also become portals to escaping the real world and investing one’s energies in a fantasy while ignoring one’s family.

Penn State apparently feels there is a need for academic advisement in Second Life, but I personally hope such requirements don’t make it to my school. I’m already short on sufficient hours in the day to do what I need and want to do in my first life. I certainly don’t have time for a second one.

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