The Second Life Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) has been used as an educational resource in many different ways, ranging from simulating the traditional classroom, though interactive experiences, to practical creational activities. Supporting resources can include traditional multimedia, simulation tools and programming languages. Learning experiences may vary from the wholly extrinsic, learning about the outside world, to more intrinsic study of Second Life’s ecosystems and its built environment, or wholly in-world creative work. Within this broad scope, there is an opportunity to support many types of learning, and distance learning in particular. In this paper we propose an analytical framework for virtual learning environments in Second Life based on current practice. We describe the creation of a learning space within Second Life designed to explore how we might support distance learners using traditional environments for extrinsic learning experiences. We reflect on the utility of the framework in understanding the various forces at work in virtual learning contexts and evaluate the student experience. We conclude that despite the potential for Second Life to support distance learners with a broad set of tools and resources, technical constraints suggest that a more effective option would be to provide focused creative tasks for students in a managed laboratory environment.