Wednesday, July 18, 2012

From Scratch, Key Elements For an Educational Virtual World

Location: Thinking Cap in Place

After my few posts about Cloud Party and Glitch, I began pulling together a list of features that I'd want in a virtual world if I had unlimited funds and time to build one myself.

I plan to put this list of features to the vote with colleagues in VWER, before we hold a meeting about "What I learned from a silly game called Glitch" early in August.
  • User-Generated Content: The killer feature for virtual worlds used by educators. We can make and share our creations in a world that is, essentially, a big sandbox
  • Collaborative Permissions: Creators can transfer full ownership for shared builds so backups and exports are possible. Mixed-permissions builds in Second Life are a nightmare
  • In-World Building with Simple Tools: Again, for collaboration this seems very popular with educators
  • Offline Building with Professional 3D Tools: For advanced builders with 3D modeling skills
  • Local Hosting Options: Educational Institutions like to own their hardware and make backups frequently
  • The Illusion of a Contiguous World: World maps are available for Glitch, most OpenSim grids, and Second Life. In Cloud Party, to my knowledge no map is available
  • Several Means of Travel: All virtual worlds include point-to-point movement such as teleportation.  Those making simulations in a world, however, should be able to turn that feature off, so participants are forced to walk or ride to a destination. Second Life manages this well with settings for parcels and regions
  • Freedom of, and From, Adult Content: This will be contentious even among educators. I'd suggest that pornography is not needed in an educational world, but adult content, such as art-museum nudity or discussions of sexuality, is necessary for many educational purposes
  • Simulations Tools, Including a Physics Engine a Combat System: My students asked for this again and again in reviews of my House of Usher simulation. In realistic simulations, bad decisions have consequences.  Avatars in these settings should get tired, hungry, injured when appropriate. They might be able to "level up" for accomplishing goals in a course or assignment. This idea got suggested in Edward Castronova's Exodus to the Virtual World and I like it a lot
  • Simple Help Tools: Glitch wins on this. The designers' humorous approach to FAQs and the Pet Rock charm me every time I log on.
What did I forget? Sound off!

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