InvestigatingÂ VW alternativesÂ to Second Life,Â for educational applications
Last week, I focused onÂ education related uses of the premier Virtual World application – Second Life. This week I am looking intoÂ other Virtual World environmentsÂ that are being used for education and instructional applications.
There are dozens ofÂ Virtual World applications in existence today, and someÂ have areas devoted specifically to use by/for education.Â There are also a handful ofÂ VW apps that are intended solely for use in theÂ educational field. Of these many tools, I was surprised to findÂ only one application (Edusim3D) that appearedÂ to me to be worthy of serious consideration. AllÂ of the other applications and information I came across left me with the impression that none of themÂ offered anything truly worthÂ considering in comparison toÂ theÂ highly functional known entity that is Second Life.
Here are the few Virtual World applications (other than Second Life) that I felt warranted mention hereÂ following my exploration into this category of tools:
Edusim was one of the few applications I came across for which there was a respectable set ofÂ easy to access information. While it is consistently referred to as a whiteboard based virtual world tool, it would appear that it can function outside of the whiteboard environment. The Edusim home page states, “Edusim is a 3D multi-user virtual world platform and authoring toolkit intended for your classroom interactive whiteboard (but equally powerful on the students laptop or desktop computers!)”. This YouTube video provides a nice overview of Edusim. This pageÂ from the Edusim site offers “5 ways to use Cobalt – Edusim in the Classroom”.Â ThisÂ Video explains how toÂ get started with Edusim, andÂ this Wikipedia Edusim pageÂ provides further information.
Edusim was developed usingÂ the OpenÂ Croquet Consortium's application tools. Per their website's Welcome message, “Croquet is a powerful open source software technology that …Â can be used by experienced software developers to create and deploy deeply collaborative multi-user online virtual world applications on and across multiple operating systems and devices.”Â This page provides insight into other projects under way utilizing the Croquet application tool set.
3D Learn (www.wilostar3d.com)
This is a unique fully functional application ofÂ Virtual World technology, focused specifically on home schooling. As stated on the site's main page, “WiloStar3D LLC is a privately held immersive education company [providing]Â interactive 3D learning environments for K-12 students. WiloStar3D owns and operates WiloStar3D Academy, a Nationally recognized SACS/CITA accredited full-time school for homeschool students.” This page provides a further overview of the application. While this is certainly a robust and highly functional utilization of the technology, it's niche focus is too narrow to warrant further coverage here.
I learned ofÂ Active Worlds years ago, and was impressed to learn that they have an area specifically focused on education – “AWEDU”, which is what made me feel compelled to mention it here. Here is the AWEDU web page: http://edu.activeworlds.com/. There isÂ a tour of some of theirÂ education sites available there (but it requires installation of software, learning how to navigate it, and doing your own investigation). Unfortunately, I simply could not find much discussion on their site or on theÂ web that really illustratedÂ the productive education-specific use of this app, and was left with the impression that it has been used very little for this purpose.
There are quite a fewÂ Virtual World environments on the Internet, and many toolsÂ under development to facilitate the creation of Virtual Worlds. After spending hours investigating these sites and tools, the bottom line for me is that Second Life is easily the most functional and worthy Virtual World environment for educational use. The wide array of availableÂ examples,Â related resources, and potential uses for Second Life is simply unmatched by any other tool set.
I look forward to getting acquainted with hands-on use of Second Life next week.Â We'll take a closer look atÂ how easy it is to get started with the app as a user, whetherÂ it still requires a good deal of computing power to get acceptable performance, and what it takes toÂ establish your own Second LifeÂ “island” presence.
Before closing, I want to ask – do you know any other Virtual WorldsÂ that are being used productively in educational applications? If I've missed anything important in my research, I sure would like to know, and to bring it to my reader's attention. Of course, any other observations about these types of tools are welcomed as well. Thanks.