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Finneli Felwitch

NMC Second Life?

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I just found out that my College used to have land in the New Media Consortium sims. Though the college is no longer active in Second Life, I visited the sims anyway. Curious, is NMC still active in Second Life? The user groups show that most of the members have not logged in for a long time. I remember some years back how Linden Labs was trying to push the education system to join in on Second Life, I guess they all left?

The website http://sl.nmc.org/ was last updated May 7, 2012

http://virtualworlds.nmc.org/ was last updated October 18, 2012

 

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I have a couple close friends who still manage university sims in SL but a ton (most) left after Linden Lab discontinued their education / non-profit discount a year or two ago. At the time many universities got in a bind because they were working with fixed budgets or grants, so the only two options were to cut land holdings in half or leave altogether. Since then education budgets have been slashed left and right by the states and federal government. Added to that is the decline of Second Life overall, fewer students purchasing high-performance desktops for school, and the huge learning curve of the viewers. Their is also a new nail in the coffin. Linden Lab recently changed its policy requiring invoice-paying members - most universities in other words - to have a minimum of 5 sims. After hearing about all these things, I realized why Tyche's weekly sim roundup reports education sims consistently closing.

The exodus must have been enough to finally catch Linden Lab's attention this winter because they quietly reinstated the education discount for many schools and offered the same to those that recently left. So far though they have not made it an official policy so those in the know are not calculating it into their budgets or project proposals.

Even if the pricing was guaranteed, universities are also considering the impact of upcoming changes such as the server-side viewers. They are expecting it to mirror the viewer 2 fiasco which drove off residents for months while bugs and function issues were fixed. The difference between that disaster and today is that Second Life was in a growth stage about as steep as the decline is right now. That means fewer incoming students will be familiar with Second Life and those that are will be discouraged from praising its classroom potential. The universities (which are in their budget talks now) are also calculating the costs for upgrading their systems to accommodate the new viewers, the time needed for students to learn how to access it, and the option to move to open sim (which has benefits beyond financing).

Overall I think it would be a hard sell to convince schools to enter Second Life and a difficult one to keep the few that are still here. This leads to why I think the New Media Consortium and other education-based groups have slowly faded or left altogether; their "customers" left before them for all the reasons I mentioned above. In fact I have not heard a peep from NMC since last May which coincides with what you are seeing in their user log-ins and web portals. I think they were a very active group whose membership and interest simply departed Second Life for better opportunities.

Hope that helps and reflects what other education and non-profits have been experiencing as a whole!

 

 

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Be careful about subscribing to anything NMC-related. It's not exactly spam, but my unsubscription requests have done nothing to stem the ads for conferences.  They seem pricey to me, but I guess educators need somewhere to spend their budgets after dropping their Second Life sims.

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I don't think that education is SL is dead, but it never lived up to the original hype and now folks are very disillusioned.  

In my opinion the failure was (and largely remains) an inability for folks to understand how to use SL.  The dominant model has been that a university would purchase a sim (or two) and make exclusive use of that sim for their students.  When this model failed lots of folks came to the conclusion that education in SL was doomed to failure.

I think that is the wrong conclusion.  I think that the type of education envisioned by the pioneers was too tied to model of a physical campus.   Or the successful uses don't quite justify the cost.

When I look around I see a variety of uses (or desired uses) that are largely short-term or that would be much better served by a common, open campus.  That is, there are many educational uses of SL that cannot cost-justify even the rental of 1/8th of a sim and/or that are best served by a common campus open to students from around the world. 

I know that at least a handful of educational users are using public sandboxes or other public places for their educational uses.  It is wonderful that such spaces are available for educators, but it is, in my opinion, not the best solution for educational use.

I was fortunate to stumble on the Virtual Classroom sim (see link in my sig) which provided the perfect solution for my need and I think provides a useful model for the future of higher education in SL.   The campus is open to any educator with a need and who is willing to work and play well with others.  This makes it idea for both short-term users (as I am now) or new users (as I was not so long ago).  

One of the best things about SL is that it provides an opportunity for students to meet each other across time zones and national borders.  But not if students are cloistered on individual university sims or mixing haphazardly with the population of SL. 

Sadly the private funding for the virtual classroom is all but gone (one, possibly two more months).  The good news (for me) is that I have until Fall 2014 to find some sort of replacement.  I, like many before me, will no doubt find public spaces that I can use or possibly a short-term rental that will meet my needs. 

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Finelli: As an educator and member of the NMC Guests group for many years, I can report a long absence from virtual worlds. You would have seen me as inactive until very recently, had you known to look for me in that listing you mention.

After being away for over 2 years I notice many changes in the educators' footprint in world; and, not all of those changes are bad, either. The quality of designs has improved; the bar is being raised. I suspect that we are still in the early stages of discovering how this technology can augment instruction.

VRprofessor makes strong points in scrutinizing the variety of instructional use cases for virtual worlds. For example, SL seemed to be a good platform for synchronous distance learning. Yet, I was a member of a design team that delivered an elegant virtual classroom for a major university that—to my knowledge—was never used with students.

To VRprofessor: You wrote...

"Sadly the private funding for the virtual classroom is all but gone (one, possibly two more months). The good news (for me) is that I have until Fall 2014 to find some sort of replacement."

As a premium account holder in SL, do you contribute tier to the Virtual Classrom group? (Would you consider such an association...tier for access? Does the Virtual Classroom group solicit such investment?)

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As the owner of The Virtual Classroom mentioned here I thought I might take the opportunity to add a couple of points. 

My aim differs from most other teaching spaces in that I provide no content or teaching staff.  I rely on educators for that entirely.  My focus is on creating a simple to learn, easy to use generic teaching space which adapts from one subject to another across the broadest course content possible.

In my view teaching in Second Life suffered from over-specialisation with large spaces and prim counts being used in a rigid manner for small student groups, then not having any use until the next class, or requiring a rebuild to be useful for another lesson.

Alternatively a virtual replica of a campus from Real Life was created, without any consideration of how it would operate in Second Life.

The final error in my opinion was to focus on a spectacular build, which dragged the students focus away from the lesson material.

I believe that a simple, easy to use and learn broad based teaching space that presents a good teaching environment can have a place in the VR education future.  Whether that is in Second Life or not remains to be seen.   But in any event rumours of my demise are premature.  I will be supporting The Virtual Classroom in an ongoing manner into the next school year and welcome vistors or educators with whole classes.

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