When it first launched, the tech and business worlds were transfixed on Linden Labs' Second Life as a new marketplace. Science fiction fans flocked to the site for its Snow Crash and Matrix-like neo-apocalyptic feel. And finally, educators arrived to build inexpensive and immersive learning environments. While the hype has certainly dissipated with Second Life, the librarian and educator community remains. Today Linden announced the first statewide roll out of a virtual learning environment. Funded by a grant from the University of Texas State's Transforming Undergraduate Education Program the company will provide a huge space for faculty, students and researchers to explore a virtual undergrad degree program.

This latest launch will include the design of 9 academic campuses and 6 health and science campuses. The combined sites will occupy over 50 Second Life regions and will be available to students 24 hours of the day. All teaching processes and design processes will be documented for future use by similar educational institutions.

ReadWriteWeb has already written about data visualization capabilities in sites like Second Life. Due to a fledgling economy, many suggested that these institutionally-branded education initiatives may also become popular. Nevertheless, apart from this recent endorsement by the University of Texas, mainstream educators still don't have the green light to teach in virtual worlds. Many argue that video teleconferencing and instant messaging have replaced the need for virtual world interaction. However, neither of these offer the same immersive experience.

While we know that face-to-face learning is currently the most successful teaching method, if you had to choose an online learning environment, would you consider a virtual world? Let us know in the comments below.