Virtual Worlds Case Study:
The NMCâ€™s Educational Communities in Second Life were designed to fill a gap in the options available to educational institutions that wished to begin experimenting in Second Life. Recognizing that educators and educational institutions needed a place to get started with virtual worlds that did not necessarily to come with the costs and development challenges associated with a full sim, the NMC embarked on a project to offer rental plots priced to be very affordable for someone on a departmental budget.
The concept was twofold; the first component was to provide very inexpensive access in a way that did not require monthly tier payments â€” and that ensured that each institution could be confident that their neighbors would also be educational institutions. As such, parcels are limited exclusively to bona fide faculty, educational departments, or learning-focused institutions. Costs are held very low â€” roughly 10 US cents per sq meter per year, with no additional fees.
The second component was to anticipate common needs for facilities that educators would need to be productive in the virtual environment. Conversations with a wide range of educational groups in Second Life informed the design, and the configuration of the land itself. Land is full-permissions, and can be used for almost any purpose consistent with research or teaching in Second Life.
Each educational community has a central area which has a number of spaces that all the tenants on the island can share â€” these include an amphitheater, a conference room, a large classroom or other meeting space, a gallery suitable for exhibiting student work, and a resource center stocked by the highly regarded ICT Library in Second Life.
The central part of each educational community is unique, and designed to provide a beautiful and serene environment for learning, knowledge sharing, and dialog. The parcels are laid out in ways to encourage neighbors to interact and collaborate, and tools are provided so that they can easily plan and book events in the common spaces on their own. Residents can communicate with neighbors easily via a special group set up for members of the community.
The first three of these islands â€” Teaching, Teaching 2, and Teaching 3 â€” were fully subscribed within two weeks of opening. Since that time (January 2007), the number of educational communities hosted by NMC has grown to nearly 30 and provides space for teaching and experimentation to more than 100 colleges and universities!
All of the NMCâ€™s educational communities are open to the public.