Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Education and Browser-Based Worlds: Win-Win?

Graphical Question
Location: Metaplace Web Site

This will sound Pollyanna-ish to those who know me, but I feel strongly that browser-based worlds could, under certain circumstances, capture a lot of the education market from Second Life.

Here's why:
  • Graphics, graphics, graphics: Linden Lab adds features to the SL client that ramp up the system requirements and add lag. Colleges and universities do not upgrade labs as often as most digerati upgrade their systems, and most students here use laptops. For those reasons, any virtual world with even the versimilitude of SL in 2006 would be "good enough" for most of the builds I can contempate in education. As cool as the new King Tut simulation may be, it won't be of much use to many of us at schools that cannot run it.
  • No Orphans: Many schools have I.T. policies that permit frequent upgrades to lab-images. Richmond and many others do not: we manage system upgrades over the summer terms. That means we never install SL's client; my students must download it every time they want to use a public computer. Browser-based worlds will not face this hurdle.
  • Platform Neutrality: We have a great number of Macs, once again, on campus. While Linden Lab has been able to admirably support multiple platforms, some other VWs with clients are not even trying. Browser-based worlds work around this problem.
  • No "Gaming" Rules: Second Life is considered a game by far too many admins. Browser-based worlds fly under the radar, except at schools that restrict by URL (not many in my experience).
I suppose I've missed a few points, but as much as I enjoy SL, I think there are pronounced advantages to using something inside a broswer. It's not, to my mind, the kluge that many SL partisans claim.

Emote time

But I'm no digerati hipster or social gamer: I'm just an early-adopting faculty member. I just jump for joy (using Metaplace's emote tools) when something works well.


Raph Koster said...

Have you been following the various educational initatives in Metaplace? I am wondering when a SIG will spontaneously emerge.

Iggy O said...

Raph, I'd love to see your "go" options in MP include a subset for educators, or a segment of the Web site set up that way. I'll be sure to cover them here!