The Wired Campus feature of the Chronicle of Higher Education dated November 9, 2009 carries a story about Penn State requiring faculty advisors to appear in Second Life to advise students. Penn State has had a campus presence in the virtual world of Second Life for some time, and decided to offer advising there, in addition (according to a comment at the online article) to office hours, e-mail, phone and Skype. Faculty advisors are required to offer a minimum of two hours a week in Second Life and are given training in the online game. They are allowed to choose their own avatar names. It was not clear from the article how fanciful the avatar faculty may be. Second Life avatars do not, of course, have to reflect the gender, height, weight or ethnicity of the person behind the electronic face. But they may also appear as giant rabbits, may sport wings, or become more exotic still. Clothing, of course, can also be negotiable, but one supposes that is still somewhat bound by standards of propriety for advisors during office hours. Many law librarians are Second Lifers. It's a fun way to interact. The Chronicle article reports that faculty members do enjoy their time once they get used to Second Life.
The picture is my own avatar from Second Life, Boptunia Woodget. I am not spending much time there these days, but she is still there, in suspended animation.