Education in 3D Virtual Worlds

Discussion in 'Main Forum' started by Harnuth, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. Harnuth

    Harnuth Member

    The topic of education in 3D virtual worlds has been haunting my mind ever since Prof. Olsen mentioned that the fellow from the New Hampshire state board of education asked if he were doing anything in 3D worlds. The field trips in Corey's "Exploring Middle Earth" in LOTRO are a great example of how virtual worlds can be used to teach a complex subject (to my thinking, the best example ever).

    That said, in the process of certification and accreditation, I expect that it will be important to know more about what educators are already doing in other 3D virtual worlds. The 600-pound gorilla of 3D virtual worlds, where all of the big boys hang out, is, of course, Second Life. When the folks from the state board of education think of 3D worlds, that's probably what they are thinking of.

    You'll want to be aware of the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education group in Second Life. They sponsor seminars and webcasts about education in virtual worlds. Sturgeon's Law certainly applies here, but in your travels, it's always wise to pay homage to local gods.

    At the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Gallery in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger version.

    How to Create a Second Life Account

    I intend to present a lot more about education in 3D virtual worlds in this thread, but just in case that alone is enough to convince you that it's worth 15 minutes of your time to create a free account on Second Life, here's how:

    1. Go to
    2. Click on the "Sign Up" link in the upper right corner of the screen
    3. Create a free account. (All you need is a name for your character and a valid email address, and that address doesn't even require confirmation.)
    4. Pick a starting avatar.
    5. Download and install the SL client. (This goes quite quickly compared to LOTRO.)
    6. Sign on
    7. Work your way through the tutorial that teaches you the basics of avatar movement and such.

    When you get in-world, send an IM to me, Camden McAndrews, and I can help get other things going.

    I am logged on almost all the time, even though I'm likely not paying attention to my SL client at any given time. An IM ought to wait for me to see it, but if I don't respond reasonably soon, you can assume that I overlooked the incoming message. As with LOTRO, it is far too easy to lose an overlooked IM.


    Yesterday afternoon, we took a tour of many of the educational places in Second Life; that's coming soon. During our tour, I kept thinking about what else was going on. I'm pretty much housebound in real life these days, and Crystal was quite busy having a baby, all while we were gadding about, visiting a dozen schools in Second Life.

    Besides the obvious advantage of facilities costs (a full region in SL costs $200/month), our ability to do educational things even in the face of real-life demands that would otherwise make it impossible is the strongest testimonial I can think of to the value of on-line education.

    Credit Crawl and Amusement

    The avatars you see in these pictures are me (Camden McAndrews in SL), Crystal (Crystal Edelmann in SL. the blonde), and Rainey (Faraine Rothyra in SL, the redhead). It was Rainey who inspired our little tour. She popped in, and over head was her group tag for "Texas Aggies." That was enough to remind me of all the educational activities that are going on SL, and to highlight the need to share this with you.
  2. Harnuth

    Harnuth Member

    Real-World Schools in Second Life

    Many real-world universities and colleges have had a presence in Second Life. It seems that the majority of them closed their virtual presence after Linden Lab stopped giving discounts to educational institutions (it was very badly abused in SL), but there are still several still there. And among them, we have some of the superstars among the celebrity schools.

    Perhaps foremost among these superstars, at least for us engineers, is Texas A&M University.

    Texas A&M Maintains a Multi-Region Presence in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger version.

    This is where Rainey's Texas Aggie tag comes from.

    Stanford also has a multi-region campus in Second Life. It's somewhat more of a playground than Texas A&M's campus and has a focus on the library sciences, but it is nevertheless there and it is impressive.

    Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger version.

    The University of Texas at Arlington also has region in Second Life, complete with a full-size, tourable virtual build of the Alamo.

    University of Texas at Arlington's Alamo
    Click on the image for a larger version.
    Note that the real-world Alamo mission is in San Antonio, Texas.

    The University of Arizona shares the Cibola region with several other colleges.

    University of Arizona Virtual Campus in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger version.

    One unexpected find in our tour was the University of Western Australia.

    University of Western Australia in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger version.

    And then there's the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, which serves as a strong example of the silliest way to do it. We could teleport to the point where you see us standing, but we could not move from that area. When I tried to move, I got an error message: "Access to this parcel requires membership in a certain group."

    There was nothing to tell me what group, how to get access, or even to hint at why I'd want access other than being able see buildings in the distance. The school is paying to maintain a virtual presence in Second Life, but I can only try to imagine why.

    The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's Most Peculiar Presence in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger version.

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  3. Harnuth

    Harnuth Member

    Virtual World Schools in Second Life

    Over the years there have been many schools that existed only in Second Life, and most of the classes were focused on doing things inside SL. Building--that is, creating things in the virtual world--is the favorite topic. Half of the residents of Second Life are creators of one sort or another, making all the stuff that exists in its many realms; and in fact, the second most lucrative business in SL is selling things to all those creators. (Number one is virtual real estate--renting land in privately owned regions to folks who want to do things with it.)

    Two schools, New Citizens Incorporated and Caledon Oxbridge University stand out because their curricula focus entirely on teaching folks who are new to SL. NCI has faded a couple of times over the years but keeps coming back. Oxbridge, with its whimsical steampunk theme, has diminished a bit but still goes on strong, owing its existence mainly to donations from those who rent land in private regions adjacent to the school.

    The Lecture Hall at Caledon Oxbridge University
    Click on the image for a larger view

    We're outside the Lecture Hall in the image above. The arrow on the ground points the way for a walk-through tutorial that explains how everything works in Second Life.

    Entrance to the College of Avatar Motion at Caledon Oxbridge University
    Click on the image for a larger view

    The College of Avatar Motion is the first of many buildings you walk through to learn how SL works. Guiding your avatar around in SL is essentially the same as LOTRO, except that in SL you can also fly. After you have learned to move, you learn how to use animated objects, how to dress your avatar, and how commerce works. It is possible to earn real-world money in Second Life, although the great majority of users never reach break-even.

    In addition the walk-through, Oxbridge has a curriculum of introductory classes on building, scripting, animating, marketing, avatar safety (avoiding scams and griefers), and all the facets of social interaction in the virtual world.

    Inside the Lecture Hall at Caledon Oxbridge University in Second Life
    Click on the image for a larger view

    The stage in the lecture hall looks rather barren. That's because the folks who are conducting a function will set out ('rez') whatever objects they need, be it a podium, chairs, projection screen, chalkboard, example objects, boxes of things to be distributed to the students, tip jar, or whatever.

    The ability to create things according to your need is the great strength that Second Life has over LOTRO as a virtual classroom. When you want to teach a class, you are limited only by your imagination and your ability to create or otherwise obtain the toys you need. Of course, what SL is lacking is a full-scale 3D model of Middle Earth with all the towns and buildings and support structure that LOTRO offers. I'm thinking of SL as a broadening of Signum University's abilities, not a replacement for Lord of the Rings Online.

    Tales from the Dark Side

    I should mention that, as you would expect in any environment where people can earn real money, there are a lot of scams going on in Second Life. The most prevalent is the charity scam--using a charity, usually either a school or the American Cancer Society, but also notably the most popular SL user client program--as a front for a for-profit business.

    I fully endorse the earning of profit from one's labors and certainly encourage everyone to donate to legitimate schools and charities, but the deception really rankles me. There's one large "building school" in particular that goes way beyond the line, using its apparent charitable status to hoodwink people into donating money "to pay expenses" and even operates "contest" scams where secret alts of the folks involved always take home the cash prizes, all the while trying to drive perceived competitors off the net.

    So, approach with appreciative caution and be careful not to become dependent on anyone outside your own organization. If in doubt, ask me privately.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
  4. Harnuth

    Harnuth Member

    A Thrown-Down Classroom

    So then, what would it take to create a Mythgard-themed virtual classroom in Second Life?

    It turns out time it takes to set up a classroom in a medievalish environment, starting with stuff we already have, is less than the time it takes to write this post. I already have the Heath & Table Inn in SL; presented it here:

    All I needed was to find a large open area to set up a classroom environment. The open upper lobby of the inn looked pretty good, so here's what I did:

    Classroom Setup at the Hearth & Table Inn
    Click on the image for a larger view

    Once I decided where to put the classroom, it really took less that five minutes, including the time to walk to the inn from our house next door. I just rezzed a chair that I had already made, duplicated the chair several times, pilfered the pulpit from my chapel to use as a podium, and here we are! Note the drawing of Laketown on the wall.

    Amusement: The door you see up that little flight of steps is the loo, an oft-overlooked detail. Look behind the building in-world to see how it all works.

    You might also notice the puddle of water from the ice house in the basement. Don't bother to open the doors to the ice house; I haven't built its interior yet. But do look down the well outside.
  5. Harnuth

    Harnuth Member

    Feeding the Imagination

    Now let's wrap up this tour with a peek inside the place that a handful of Tolkien fans call home. This is the living room of our house. You can see the house up the hill from the inn, but if you to go there, your progress will be blocked by ban lines. That does not prevent you from looking around inside, however; in SL, your camera is not tied to your avatar. So let's provide some fodder to feed your imagination by showing a bit of what's possible when you can create your own world.

    Our Living Room
    Click on the image for a larger view

    The posters from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are obvious (and subject to change at any time), as are the portraits of Bilbo and Frodo and the painting of Laketown. Of particular importance here is the big television. It can actually show movies; anything that's on YouTube, any .mp4 file on the web, and in fact almost any web site. I can't get it to show Twitch TV (at least not yet), however, so for Mythgard events we're still constrained to web browsers.

    The electronics rack is the tuner for the television; it sets the parcel media to whatever we want to watch. There's just something sociable about sitting on the sofa and watching the same show together. It's more fun in-world.

    Note the map of Bree from LOTRO in the glass-topped coffee table.

    The key point here is that we created everything you see in this picture--every object, every texture, every script that makes the objects come alive, even the lights and the fire in the fireplace--with the following exceptions: Crystal's hair, my sweater, and the textures on the wall-mounted gun cabinet (which we bought long ago in-world, for pennies).

    This should give you some idea of just how far you can go when you want to create a shared experience in a 3D virtual world. All it takes is imagination to think up the things you want and the skill, time, and talent to make them.

    Finally, of course I have a desk with a computer in Second Life!

    My Desk
    Click on the image for a larger view
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