Since much of the educationally-oriented activity on Second Life has gone on within the couple of years at the most, there is not a lot of hard data to pass along to administrators about the value of this particular virtual environment. (Harvard's course CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion was first offered in 2006 - not the first Second Life course - it was but one of the first to recieve a lot of media attention.) In spite of the lack of hard data about Second Life in particular, some educators on the SLED discussion list point out, virtual worlds have been around for 20 years and research has been done on those environments. Milosun Czverik (SL name) suggests trying ERIC and other education databases to search for research on virtual worlds. Use terms such as massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), 3D multiuser virtual environment, MUVEs, computer simulation, video games, Active Worlds, Second Life.
Mark Pepper has an Annotated Bibliography of Second Life Online Educational Resources at
http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~mpepper/slbib Among other links, Pepper includes:
Ixchel, Anya. (2006). My Teaching Semester in Second Life: Pitfalls, Challenges and Joys
Freitas, Sara de. (2006) "Learning in Immersive Worlds: A Review of Game Based Learning." Prepared for the JISC e-learning program.
Stoerger, Sharon (2007) It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, but How You Play the Game: The Role of Virtual Worlds in Education.Annotated Bibliography
Livingstone, Daniel, (Ed.); Kemp, Jeremy, (Ed.) (2006).
Proceedings of the Second Life Education Workshop, Part of the Second Life Community Convention (1st, San Francisco, California, August 18-20, 2006). "...14 papers from presentations and posters from the Second Life Education Workshop at the Second Life Community Convention, presented at the Fort Mason Centre in San Francisco, California in August 2006." ERIC document: ED493670.
Life Science Informatics Trends Analysis for Community College Program Builders -
Volume 3: Virtual Worlds: http://bellevuecollege.edu/informatics/VWTAFinal.pdf
An excellent introduction and overview education and Second Life from Spring 2007.
Published Research Papers
SaLamander Project http://www.eduisland.net/salamanderwiki/index.php?title=Literature_review (more generally on gaming and distance education)