Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why DO Educators Need Second Life?

Never Forget--Back it up!
Location: House of Usher

For a long time, I've answered that question "as a platform for making immersive simulations that are not possible, for very expensive, in the world of bricks and mortar."

Let's skip the "expensive" part, now that OpenSim offers pricing at a fraction of the Linden Lab product. But most OpenSim grids are also "metaverses," where there are a range of social users, other educators, creatives, and roleplayers. Running into the Bloodlines vampires in SL reminded me that neither I nor my students need those folks to run something like The House of Usher.

In fact, we don't even need a metaverse. All we need is a one-sim private 3D world.

I think this argument will sway many colleagues. Unless a course of study asks students to go explore an alien online culture, why not simply build a closed 3D simulation so students could log into a shared account with all their inventory pieces and appearance in place, go through a short orientation with a mentor, then begin the assignment? Next term, we'd change the passwords for the shared accounts, fix any broken bits in the inventory, and run the simulation again. If visitors wanted a tour, we could create avatars as needed.

We did something like this in SL last term, sans the shared accounts, since Linden Lab never got back to me about setting up a series of stock accounts that could be reused from class to class. I'll file a feature request formally soon, but I don't expect an answer.

Meanwhile, my next immersive literary build with Viv Trafalgar, to be launched sometime in the 2011-2012 academic year, won't be in SL at all, but in a closed grid where only invited students and actors can participate.

Pity, really. I like the big grid for socializing and meeting colleagues, but since our first-year writing program changed, I'll not be teaching a class where they need such a grid.

I suspect that this sort of use of 3D grids will play a big role in educational use, just as the closed BlackBoard system does in course management.

Who's to blame? No one really, though had Linden Lab set up private grids at a fraction of the failed SL Enterprise product, they might have cornered the market. Reaction Grid offers just such a service, for those who don't have the knowhow to host their own OpenSim servers on campus.

That's the future I see, not SL, in education.


Lalo Telling said...

It doesn't take a lot of know-how to self-host a stand-alone OpenSim (it just takes a lot of hyphens!)

I am nothing like a serious computer geek, but I was able to find adequately clear directions (most of them on OpenSim's Wiki) and follow them, with the result that I had a 3D "world" on my desktop. The only thing I didn't try was allowing anyone else to log in, but the directions to enable that didn't look too difficult.

Maria Korolov said...

Iggy --

Always nice to people interested in setting up private grids!

ReactionGrid is just one of the many OpenSim hosting companies out there. For a full list -- with prices -- check our list here:

If you miss contact with other worlds, you can hypergrid-enabled your grid -- or even just part of it, such as one welcome region -- so your users can teleport to other OpenSim grids (such as ReactionGrid) and outsiders can teleport in.

-- Maria Korolov
Editor, Hypergrid Business

Iggy O said...

I hosted a server running Apache for a few years, then gladly handed it over to our data center. My concern is priority: sure, I can learn to run a server, but there's no professional recognition in my annual report. I'd, frankly, rather rent land and write another article.

That's doubly true b/c I find running a server tedious, much like scripting or other things that are not "naturals" for me. I'm a good builder and great with graphics, as long as I can copy/paste/mod a script.

So I doubt Richmond will have its own OS grid any time soon, b/c I don't want to manage it and we have 100 steps (and good ones) before we put a new server online with public (or even multi-user) access.

Peter Miller said...

You can establish a stock set of avatars in SL but you need to use the RegAPI. See, section E18.

Iggy O said...

Thank you, Peter. I was not patient enough to dig through LL's site for this answer, so I greatly appreciate your providing it.

I'll do just this for the coming year. FYI to other readers, the text in question is:

"...To clarify, you can create a set of "training accounts" using the regAPI, prepping them all in advance, and placing them all in the start location of your choice. You will need to employ adequate safeguards for proper use of these accounts; change the password immediately to prevent unexpected use of the account. Keep the password secure and restricted to trusted individuals within your organization. If this account is misused, you are responsible for the misuse, and Linden Lab may close the account/s. Linden Lab's Terms of Service apply, but were primarily written for consumer users where sharing a password can be a serious problem..."