Second Life may be the only virtual reality product we’re seeing being used by some early adoptors in higher education, but from where I sit, it won’t be too long before other virtual world (game) engines become more ubiquitous. I can’t imagine that the current developers, Open Source or otherwise, won’t be leapfrogging each other within another two years. SUN Microsystems and the Croquet Project are two such serious contenders. And as of today, “Rumors abound that Google is developing online ‘virtual world’,” per the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Gaming engines are intended to more easily put in the hands of experimenting faculty, the ability to create their own scenarios, virtual spaces, and collaborative communities without being gaming programmers. Before the appearance of Second Life, these imagineers had to contract with game developers to create MUVEs (multi-player virtual environments). As facts, figures, or assumptions change, the MUVEs risk being outdated or placed the chopping block for an infusion of current data. Harvard University’s River City or Indiana University’s QuestAtlantis are two such examples of excellently created MUVEs, but created at the hands of expert gaming developers.
With game engine software licenses, faculty may have to spend a goodly amount of time (presently, anyway) learning how to create an Avatar, building objects or assets, or learning how to teleport, but the control is in the hands of those instructors excited to see how well these worlds meaningfully engage their learners.
What follows are my bookmarked YouTube videos showing various uses of virtual realities. I want to stay vendor-agnostic, so please do not consider these plugs for any particular software.
If you have other examples of good videos on 3D immerisive learning environments for education, please submit a comment to this post (instructors, teachers, campus or school administrators only, please).
This video (Octboer 2006) is a fascinating virtual press conference held by SUN Microsystems within Second Life. 3 1/2 minutes
The second video from SUN Microsystems, provides some first looks at their virtual world application, Project Wonderland, where distributed teams can create spaces to solve real-world problems, share documents, and collaborate as needed. Open Source, based on Darkstar game server, uses JAVA code ~10 minutes
This is a very popular video that came out 2/15/07 on Ohio University’s Second Life Campus. 2 1/2 minutes
A Croquet software demo (August 2007) 5 minutes