Ohio University Opens Virtual Doors
- By Linda L. Briggs
Last year, Ohio University purchased two islands and built several
buildings on it, including a student center, learning center, and arts
and music center. The cost? A few thousands dollars, plus some software
development time creating the virtual buildings.
are in Second Life, the popular three-dimensional virtual world created
by Linden Labs. In Second Life, which is open to anyone, users create
accounts and take on a name and shape, then move through the online
world much as in real life. Participants encounter others, hold
conversations, buy and sell things, build structures, and in general
act as one might in a completely new world, albeit one in which
everyone and everything is a computer creation. Sophisticated graphics
give the feel of moving across real terrain, with sky, trees,
buildings, paths, water, islands, and more.
University is the first university in Ohio and one of just a few
universities in the United States, including Harvard and Princeton, who
have launched functioning campuses in Second Life.Cost and development
university paid Linden Labs $980 per island in setup fees last year and
continues to pay $150 a month in fees. (Linden recently increased the
island setup fee to $1,675, with a 20 percent discount to educators.)
Development time over the six months it took to set up the island
added perhaps $30,000 to that cost, according to Christopher Keesey,
project manager for marketing and learning applications at Ohio
University Without Boundaries, a small group within Ohio University
tasked with developing learning experiences for the university and for
Access to the island campus is open to anyone
who has a Second Life account; with an account, which is free, anyone
can visit the Ohio University islands at the following URL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/ohio%20university/20/36/24/
(might not work with IE). To join Second Life, visit http://www.secondlife.com/
to the campus--which now consists of two connected islands--can take
courses and enjoy a host of other features, like exploring parks and
buildings and joining real student organizations at the student center.
Student groups can meet and collaborate just as they might on campus.
An artist in residence has created an installation in the virtual arts
and music center, for example, allowing student visitors to meet
artists and listen to live music.
Plans for development
university plans to use the campus for distance learning, Keesey says,
as well as on campus learning and support. For example, a course kiosk
on the Second Life campus currently supports an on campus management
Keesey and his team are currently setting up areas on
the Second Life campus for various groups at Ohio University. “For any
student group who might be in the real-life student center here on
campus,” he says, “we’re meeting with them and gathering information.”
Supporting materials for the groups on the virtual campus might include
videos and podcasts, along with rooms and spaces for students to
schedule meetings and impromptu study sessions, view videos, and more.
its high-end graphics and the sometimes bizarre names and appearances
of participants can create the feeling of a game, those behind the
development of the virtual campus don’t think of Second Life that way:
It’s “a next-generation learning development environment,” Keesey says.
“It’s far more than a game. It’s an all-inclusive environment. You can
develop games within it.”