Saturday, May 9, 2009

First Behind-the-Firewall College in Second Life

Location: Cleveland Plain Dealer Web Site

Just uncovered this (tip of the tophat to Alvin) news about Case Western Reserve University:

CWRU on Thursday announced that it is partnering with Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, to build a private virtual world, or "grid," just for the university.

I have been very excited at Linden Lab's plans for a "behind the firewall" solution for faculty who need stability and a secure haven for projects, hosted on local servers and connected to SL's main grid. For sensitive data in med school classes (a dental lab simulation is pictured above), hosting SL locally provides a perfect solution: the institution, not Linden Lab, is responsible for housing and protecting materials that may be covered by FERPA and other Federal laws.

As I read the account in the Plain Dealer, I became momentarily concerned. While CWRU is the "first university to get its own version of Second Life," would the university lock down student access to the larger grid beyond its walled garden?

It seems not. Read the entire account of how some teachers will use SL, and for many of them, I'm betting that the protected college space, supported by their own on-campus experts, will create an ideal learning environment. On campus, students need never worry about a griefer from the broader world of SL ( faculty can handle student griefers just fine). Off campus, the students will enter a larger and less controlled world, just as they do when they complete experiential-learning projects outside a campus' brick-and-mortar gates.

We'll see more campuses do what CWRU is doing, and soon, in SL and other virtual worlds.

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