Despite some of the more outrageous claims to the contrary, SecondLife, while an abstract 3-D world, is not actually a teaching platform.   It had its moment and devolved rather quickly into another marketing tool for companies but conceptually it provides a good foundation for one.

To become one, a tool muct include things a training program with a sequence of activities for students to acquire knowledge as well as a methodology to evaluate previously defined learning results. 

The advantages of using this type of application for potentially teaching  have now been investigated by researchers who have carried out an experiment regarding learning Spanish as a second language. The researchers have started with the assumption that the best way to learn a language is to live in a country where it is spoken.

"The 3D learning environments are not only appropriate for transmission of knowledge, but also for teaching competencies, and if they also include Augmented Reality elements for the manipulation of a three-dimensional world with real physical elements, even better results are obtained, as the barrier of a fictional world immersion is reduced," says professor Delgado Kloos of Carlos III University of Madrid. 

Can't understand the language in the video?  I guess you need this tool.

Better academic experience?

The researchers set out to successfully develop a teaching product with a total educative experience, improving on the classic textbook and lecture format.    Their contention is that 3D environments which can be explored by the student allow for more pedagogical resources.

There is history to it.    Student pilots have long been using flight simulators to learn how to handle a plane before sitting in a real cockpit - it is not a replacement for real flying but certainly a good bridge between an expensive plane and a textbook.   A 3-D world can possibly transmit many more elements other than purely cognitive ones, so that skills and competencies can be acquired which a textbook alone cannot offer - a much richer educational experience. 

But there is still a long way to go until we are able to employ virtual 3-D worlds as learning platforms. "This is a relatively virgin area which has to demonstrate its relevance, and which will grow as IT hardware capacity grows, and as new software interfaces are defined and new person-machine interface devices become more generalized," Delgado Kloos agrees. He also heads the UC3M Telematics Applications and Services Group (GAST) which carries out work in the areas of e-learning, ubiquitous computing, intelligent environments, distributed real- time systems and web technologies.