I integrate a few SL-related activities into a business writing class—a required course within the business curriculum at my institution that is usually taken in the Junior year. As with some technical writing courses within undergraduate programs, it is the only formal business writing course in their program; the course is expected to cover several areas of business writing, including digital literacy elements. The final project for the course is to develop a writing product that simulates one that would be found in a professional setting; among project students tend to pursue are: a proposal that addresses a particular problem, a feasibility study associated with ways to address a problem or improve an operation, or an instructional or training manual for a particular task or position. James Kinneavy (1986) espouses the use of situated writing activities in writing pedagogy to help students learn the kinds of writing they will experience in the workplace. Further, Pennell and Miles (2009) observe numerous benefits of such pedagogy, especially pertaining to learning concepts of rhetoric and changing students’ perceptions of the world (pp 380-381). Such assignments engage students in projects that simulate real situations.
While many students think in terms of a print-linguistic document, I also encourage students to use New Media environments with their final project assignment, integrating multimodal composition. I suggest Web site development or video products as examples. Among the materials that I give students is information about the New London Group’s (1996) parameters of modes of representation and listing of potential kinds of projects (Final Project Guidelines). While I do not require them to develop such a product, I mention video and web-based products that students have done previously as examples; these include a promotional video for a musical group and development of a Website for an organization or company. Considering the growth of SL in pedagogy and business, Steve (not the student’s real name) chose to develop an instructional machinima product that teachers and students could use to orient themselves to the SL interface as displayed through a Mac machine. Steve thought that such a product would ease the orientation experience if users first saw the tutorial in which they could see the environment in action as they heard descriptions of certain actions. This is somewhat similar to the assignment that Vie (2008a) describes, wherein students prepare a walkthrough to facilitate orientation for a user of a new game as part of usability testing activities in her technical communication course (p. 159).While Vie’s students develop a print-linguistic product, Steve designs a machinima video product to facilitate that orientation. The purpose of Steve’s video is to provide instruction and orientation in several basic actions users often perform in SL such as navigating in SL and changing the appearance of one’s avatar.