This study explored the potential of Second Life (SL), a popular multi-user virtual online environment, for university counseling. University students (n = 312) were asked to evaluate three counseling channels (i.e., traditional face-to-face, internet, and SL) based on a range of media features deemed relevant and important to counseling and to assess their relative preferability when faced with different counseling problems. For the purposes of this study, counseling rooms with different styles were built, virtual counselors with different genders, ages, and styles were created, and short video recordings of scripted counseling sessions were produced in SL. For the media feature comparisons, the collected data were analyzed by the multivariate analysis of variance, followed by the analysis of variance and post hoc comparisons when significant differences were found, whereas for counseling problem comparisons, repeated-measure analysis of variance and post hoc comparisons were used. The results for the media feature comparisons showed that SL counseling significantly out-rated traditional counseling in all of the examined media features, with the exception of the interactivity dimension. Additionally, while SL and internet counseling were both perceived as significantly better than traditional counseling in areas that are unique to computer-mediated communications, including anonymity, convenience, and flexibility with regard to time and space, as well as privacy of the counseling site, SL was perceived as distinctly superior to internet counseling in five areas due to its unique affordances, including the choice of appearance, choice of counselors, interactivity, diversity of counseling sites, and availability of counseling object dimensions. Furthermore, traditional counseling was regarded as better able to support more fluent and versatile interaction between the counselor and client than the other two computer-mediated channels. As for the results of counseling problem comparisons, SL was rated as least preferred for six out of the seven counseling problems (except for gender identity issues), despite its media affordances. Suggestions for practitioners and future research are provided based on the current findings.
|Journal||Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning|
|Publication status||Published - 2017 Dec 1|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Media Technology
- Management of Technology and Innovation