Second Life Long Learning

Austin Tate, Director of the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute at the University of Edinburgh, doesn’t email me very often, but when he does, I can guarantee that it’s worth paying attention to. Here’s something he sent me the other day, amalgamated (with his permission) from a few emails that he’s been sending out on this topic to his own department and colleagues. It’s a got a handful of very useful URLs, so simplest for me to quote and re-post as quoted below.

(note: the image on the right is reposted from one of the newsletters linked to in Austin’s email, the NMC Campus Observer, “New Audio Art Installation in Spohrer Center”.)

Here’s what Austin wrote:

…have you been watching what is happening with Second Life? NASA, BBC, Google and 50 Universities are using it I understand – along with quite a large socializing community worldwide.

Take a look at an example Educational group on 2L…

These are some of the Educational groups involved in that one…

If you already have second Life installed use the SLurl…

If not, you might want to try it on a machine that can cope with
reasonably powerful graphics.. it runs on Windows and Mac and a Linux
version is in alpha..

You can sign up for free to explore and try things out… though a
few in-sim currency units will prove useful… a referral URL from my
avatar in Second Life is

I can see many parallels here with when I first saw the web… its got LOTs of potential.. and is simply an example of many near-term and future massively on-line multi-person environments in which communities and relationships are being built.

I would also add that I think that collaboration methods such as limited “seat” streamed lectures, classrooms, questions and feedback will all be possible in these sorts of environments – and they have much in common with some of the systems you have showed us experimentally at the OU.

As a (former) early adopter of Asheron’s Call and other massively multiplayer gaming environments, and researcher/collaborator with Yanna Vogiazou on the augmented-reality urban multiplayer game CitiTag, not to mention the numerous in-house environments of ours that Austin mentions above, I thought I’d better check this out. [Yes, I know I am VERY late to the table with this one… it’s already very old news to many… ]

I never like MOOs and MUDs as learning environments in the ‘olden’ days, and don’t care for VR-based virtual classrooms (I’ll have to explain why in a subsequent posting). But I’m signing up for this, and will give it a whirl. Stay tuned…

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4 Responses to “Second Life Long Learning”

  1. Shaun Osborne Says:

    Dear Marc

    Do! I got on this thing a week or so ago and as a technologist my reaction was very similar to Austin’s – an excitement like that of the mid 90’s when the Internet started to ‘go’. It is simply the most flexible interactive internet based enviroment I have ever seen and very interesting the amount of interest it is generating in the ‘mainstream’ (after 3 years of operation).
    e.g. your field or behavioural stuff
    paper –

    and on…


  2. Tony Hirst Says:

    Someone in IET/COLMSCT(?) (I forget who but can dig it out) is going to buy an OU island in SL for experimenting with (I think they should also get the DigiLab people involved).

    I’ve popped in and out of SL once a week or so for the last few weeks, in part to see how the SL Library 2.0 on Info Island has been developing (

    My immediate impressions (1.4GHz, 256Mb (?) laptop, win xp pro sp2, home broadband) is that it’s way too painful at the mo unless you’re on a reasonable machine and a fast link…

    Maybe my experiences are coloured by a 6-7 minute overhead each time I try to enter SL (every time I enter I need to get another 25Mb update and wait for it to install before I can enter the world).

    Perhaps my impatience harkens back to the laboured process I had to go through to get an account: I didn’t want to hand over credit card details, but I thought I would use a Paypal account to register. Which need an authenticated Paypal account. Which meant I had to go through a several day process of giving Paypal my bank details, waiting for it to deposit an amount in my account, then telling Paypal how much it had given me,

    And the efficiency of the 3D modelling concerns me a little, too – last night, having just teleported to the SL Library, I waited several minutes as I watched SL build very detailed scene in front of me that I knew was behind a wall – which eventually appeared. Needless to say, I wasn’t going that way and so all the rendering was for nothing.

    For students who aren’t already happily using SL, I wouldn’t even consider it for a few months yet.

    For KMi staffers on state of the art machines and fastlinks, you may get away with it…


  3. Marc Says:

    Yeah, hard to get the full immersive experience with ‘pop in/out’ — one really needs to spend a lot of time with it (judging from my similar experiences elsewhere). There are some firewall headaches running it from on campus, and neither those nor the need for beefy machines bothers me too much (i.e. one just needs to project forward in time a bit, as with all of these things).

    More worrying to me is the level of excitement I see, e.g. in a very recent story, about ‘voice comes to mulitplayer games’, with lots of enthusiasm about voice-enabled avatars for language learning environments in SL. Hey, we’ve been doing VOIP language-learning environments for over 12 years; sure, I agree that avatars and programmability add tons of functionality and empowerment, but the jury is still out on the cost/benefit — I do *NOT* mean the hardware/network costs, but rather the time, effort, and sanity costs for (say) the language instructors, compared with (say) multiparty Skype, or of course our own Lyceum and FlashMeeting!

  4. Preoccupations Says:

    Education and the virtually real: Second Life

    From the same posting by David Weinberger that I just mentioned comes this: Nikolaj Nyholm talks about how uses Second Life to prototype user interactions. Matt Bidulph has been doing Second Life mashups. You can use http, he says,

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