Online education and the metaverse

Installations, OpenSim, Virtual Worlds

I visit Rutgers University

Rutgers football stadium in OpenSim

Standing on the 40 yard line

These days I’m exploring OpenSim
as a possible new home for Minerva.
It’s surprisingly solid, and some of the  grids even have voice.  Today I had a look around Rutgers; their OpenSim build looks as if they have reproduced their entire university there, student residences and all.

When I entered the grid, I found myself in the virtual version of the Rutgers football stadium, and it’s very impressive.  I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting linebackers to come crashing down on me at any moment.

Rutgers seems to be taking a very sensible approach to acclimating students to a virtual environment. Because OpenSim is so much less expensive than Second LIfe, they can spread out, giving incoming students a stronger sense of the actual campus.  Many things are still under construction here, but I hope they will include a robust teleport system to help students navigate the campus.  It’s just SO big!

Old Queen's, entry

Information kiosks help students learn about the campus

I began with the old campus, historic buildings surrounding a lovely park.  Old Queen’s is the oldest of these, the  first building to be occupied at Rutgers in 1811.

Old Queen's, Rutgers
An elegant old buildling

It’s a lovely old structure, and very well maintained.  I doubt they will use it for teaching, as it’s a bit hard to navigate inside buildings, but it’s a good way to show incoming students what the old campus looks like.

The whole project is very well put together. Some of the buildings aren’t finished yet, but  after exploring for about an hour, I’ll bet I could identify the major landmarks at the actual university to find my way around.

Of course, reproducing campus buildings is only one aspect of using virtual worlds for education; I was interested to find out how individuals in the different disciplines were using this space. I think it’s still early days, but people do seem to be hard at work on their own projects: there are lots of inviting spaces for group discussions, someone is building a Renaissance chapel, and people are creating art all over the grid.

There’s still a lot of space left; I’ll be sure to visit again to see what they get up to.

The Event Horizon display at Rutgers

The Event Horizon: Mindbending science/art project at virtual Rutgers

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