TSTC Takes One Small Step for Virtual Worlds, One Giant Leap for Virtual World Education

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Texas State Technical College's virtual college (vTSTC) in Second Life announces the first known student to graduate from a certificate program taken entirely in a virtual environment. Julie Shannan graduated with a certificate in digital media on Wednesday, May 6, 2009.

Julie Shannan became the first known student to graduate from a virtual certificate program when she graduated from Texas State Technical College's virtual college (vTSTC) on May 6, 2009 with a certificate in digital media.

One graduation, not affected by swine flu, occurred at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at Texas State Technical College's virtual college (vTSTC) in Second Life. On this day, Julie Shannan, became the first known student to graduate from a certificate program taken entirely in a virtual environment.

The significance of this event as a milestone in education was reflected by the pomp and circumstance of the graduation held on the vTSTC campus in Second Life, complete with processional, pledge of allegiance, national anthem, and conferring of degrees. The college spared no details from the beautiful commencement environment to the regalia and hoods for faculty and staff, to custom scripting for the traditional tassel change and cap toss. Representatives from Linden Lab, the company that developed the Second Life platform joined other attendees of this historic event including faculty, staff and developers of vTSTC throughout the TSTC System, the TSTC West Texas President, TSTC System strategic initiatives staff, and current students.

Julie Shannan, who has a bachelor of arts in biology from the University of Texas at Austin, now also holds the distinction of being the first graduate of the vTSTC digital media design program as well as the first student to take an entire college curriculum within the virtual world of Second Life. She plans to take the next step in the digital media design program, and obtain an Associate's degree at vTSTC.

"This is a significant milestone for education not only because it is the first graduate from an environment of this nature, but due to the fact that this single event represents the validity of virtual world education as a real method for educational delivery," said Chris Gibson, associate vice president of Educational Technology.

When addressing the guests of the commencement ceremony, Shannan stirred everyone's emotions when she shared, "… In my second life I have explored the inside of computers and servers, collaborated with people across the world, traveled to world class art museums, built 3D products for my logo designs, explored a tsunami from the ocean floor, and many more experiences I could never do in my real world. … Thank you again for this once in a (second) life opportunity!"

Additional vTSTC certificate and degree offerings are set for release in fall of 2009. For more information about vTSTC offerings visit virtual TSTC or contact Mary Dickson at mary.dickson(at)sweetwater.tstc.edu.

About TSTC
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) consists of four technical colleges under the leadership of Chancellor Bill Segura, Ph.D.: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco, and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, and Sweetwater. More than 13,000 students attend TSTC each year in credit programs alone, and that number grows to more than 30,000 when short-term continuing education and corporate training programs are included through TSTC Corporate College.

About vTSTC
Texas State Technical College purchased its first island in January 2007 and founded the college's virtual learning environment in the fall of 2008, offering a Certificate of Completion and later an Associate's degree in Digital Media (TSTC is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Associate of Applied Science degrees and Certificates of Completion. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033 or call 404-649-4500).

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