VCARA for Newbies

Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 by Alyse Dunavant-Jones

VCARA offers many ways to participate, and anyone with an Internet connection can access our webcast recordings and follow us through social media to discover the virtual worlds and online learning research and events we share.

But for those wishing to immerse themselves in VCARA and virtual worlds, read on for a step-by-step guide on taking your first steps:

Getting Started with VCARA

For information about Second Life, check out the official What is Second Life website.

To learn why participating in virtual worlds might be right for you, explore the VCARA Blog and VCARA on Social Media for past and coming attractions and opportunities.

Step 1: Create a Second Life Account

Signing up for Second Life (SL) is similar to creating a video game character and downloading game software.

(As you begin your journey with VCARA, you'll realize Second Life isn't a game; it's an entire virtual world that parallels the real world in many ways! But for now, if you've ever played an MMORPG like World of Warcraft or a life simulator game like the Sims, you're already ahead of the curve!)

First, make sure your home computing environment meets the iSchool's requirements. Then go to and press the Play for Free button. Follow the website's instructions.

When signing up, you will:

  • Choose a basic avatar (Don't worry too much about your avatar's appearance; You can change it for free once in Second Life)
  • Create a unique user name (Choose carefully--you'll be stuck with it!)

Step 2: Install a Second Life viewer

Choose one of the following options:

  • Download and install the Second_Life.dmg file when prompted by the Second Life sign up page
  • Go to and download this alternative Second Life viewer (This option may help if your computer overheats easily)
  • Go to and download this alternative Second Life viewer (This option may help if your computer overheats easily)

Step 3: Participate in Second Life

Open the viewer like you would any other program on your computer, type your username and password, and have fun! When Second Life first opens, your default location will be Learning Island. Follow Learning Island's official Second Life tutorial to learn some basics.

Virtual Ability, Inc. (a non-profit dedicated to virtual world accessibility) also hosts an excellent tutorial. To access the tutorial, paste into your viewer's search bar. You will learn valuable skills like navigation and opening objects. Bonus: there is a ton of free avatars and clothing at the end of the tutorial!

Virtual Ability Island - Freebies Area

If you're feeling confident and up for adventure after these tutorials, browse the Second Life Destination Guide. There are all sorts of communities, displays, and tutorials to choose from!

If you're feeling shy, don't worry--most of us do when we begin Second Life! Paste iSchool Island's URL into your viewer's search bar:

You'll end up in friendly territory right outside of the VCARA Amphitheatre. There may be a VCARA member (an iSchool student, faculty, or alumnus) there to answer questions, or you might have the island to yourself. Either way, feel free to explore and enjoy our safe, educational space!

Step 4: Attend a VCARA Orientation

Sign up for an in-world (in Second Life) VCARA orientation to learn about VCARA and Second Life.

We can tailor the session to your needs, so don't worry if you're having trouble with the basics. Second Life's learning curve is steep, and everyone on the VCARA team remembers what it is like to be new to this amazing virtual world.

Orientations last 30 minutes to an hour, and the VCARA team is happy to host multiple sessions as your Second Life skills progress! Check the VCARA Blog for scheduled orientations. Or--to schedule an orientation at a time convenient for you, email VCARA's Student Representative Alyse Dunavant-Jones (

If you have questions or if you have trouble signing up for Second Life, also contact Alyse.

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