Second Life for Mentoring of Students with Disabilities: Findings from Qualitative Research


Presented at 9:15am in Windsor on Friday, November 18, 2016.



  • Nathan Moon, Dr., Georgia Institute of Technology

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format:
  • Expertise Level: Expert
  • Type of session: General Conference


This presentation discusses findings from interview-based qualitative research on the use of the virtual world Second Life as a platform for mentoring of students with disabilities in STEM. Adoption of Second Life was correlated with certain disability groups such as ADHD, while non-adoption of Second Life was strongly tied to visual impairments.


The Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance's (GSAA) BreakThru project undertook an interview-based qualitative Study with content analysis to understand the differences between four categories of users regarding their use of the virtual world Second Life as part of BreakThru's mentoring activities. Based upon criteria of training, adoption, and duration and frequency of use, 16 interview subjects were sorted into four categories. Among the heaviest users of Second Life, key factors included tech-savvy mentors encouraged mentees to use Second Life, use of Second Life for at least one hour per week, and texting as the most commonly used Second Life technology. From an accessibility standpoint, findings suggest that it might be particularly useful for participants with ADHD or individuals with social anxiety. For non-adopters, vision limitations have great influence, yet the need for synchronous availability also is critical.


  1. Proper training of mentors is essential for the success of any e-mentoring effort.
  2. Perception—both positive and negative—is determinant in use or disuse of Second Life for e-mentoring..
  3. Disability experiences vary widely in terms of limitation and impairment the adoption and use of Second Life.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Vision

Topic Areas

Web/Media/App Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Nathan Moon

Nathan W. Moon, PhD, is a Research Scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology and serves as Associate Director for Research of the Center for Advanced Communications Policy (CACP) at Georgia Tech. His primary research interests include accessible and inclusive STEM education, workplace accommodations policy, accessible information and communications technologies, disability and technology policy, and program evaluation. Dr. Moon currently serves as Co-Principal Investigator of the Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance (GSAA), a five-year collaborative (with the University of Georgia) supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the participation of secondary and postsecondary students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).