Innovator for Teaching with Virtual Worlds Passes Away

University faculty member and instructional innovator Leslie Jarmon died on Nov. 24 after a 15-year battle with cancer. She was 57.

Jarmon was an early adopter of instructional uses of virtual worlds, becoming a role model and advocate for colleagues looking to create new models in pedagogy through innovative uses of emerging technology. Jarmon designed and taught graduate-level courses at the university beginning in 1998 with the Office of Graduate Studies. In fall 2008 she joined the Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment as a specialist in faculty development.

A leader in the university's entry into virtual world environments, Jarmon was co-founder of the Educators Coop, a virtual residential community of interdisciplinary educators, researchers and librarians from around the world. She was editor of several journals and presented at numerous conferences on education and virtual worlds, including the American Educational Research Association, Best Practices in Education in SL, the American Sociological Association, the National Communication Association, and the New Media Consortium Symposium on Creativity in Second Life. She served on the UT System Initiative for Serious Gaming.

In June the UT System awarded Jarmon a $250,000 grant under its Transforming Undergraduate Education  (TUE) program for an initiative titled "Building Immersive Instructional Experiences and Learning Communities in Second Life." It promises a creative approach to undergraduate instruction using Second Life, the free, online virtual-world technology that converges Web 2.0 social networking capabilities with Web 3.0 three-dimensional environments.

She was designated principal investigator for the first-in-the-world project that includes 16 academic, medical and health science university campuses. Hosting almost 200,000 students and 7,500 faculty, the UT System has funded the creation of a virtual 49-island archipelago in Second Life (SL), with three islands per campus and one central island for System-wide collaboration and administrative activities. It is designed to foster extensive collaboration within and among the UT System's campuses by means of an open, online virtual platform that can be networked, customized, adapted and expanded.

Family, friends, colleagues and students gathered at Mercury Hall on Dec. 2 to celebrate the life of a dynamic innovator who taught in the Peace Corps, studied theatre with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof, and trail-blazed the use of social networking technologies to create communities of scholarship.