What are Virtual Worlds?

The capability of virtual worlds has expanded considerably in the past few years, with enormous development in building tools, climate simulators, physics engines, and the overall capability of these platforms to simulate reality. A growing number of Internet users have an avatar in a virtual world, and hundreds of platforms to allow those avatars places to interact are already available or in development. Virtually every higher education institution has some sort of work going in around virtual spaces, and in just one platform alone, Linden Lab’s Second Life®, thousands of educational projects and experiments are actively underway. Early projects that drew heavily on real-world forms and practices gradually have given way to more experimental ventures that take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by virtual worlds and other immersive digital environments. Now we are seeing increased use of these spaces for truly immersive forms of learning and for a level of collaboration that is erasing traditional boundaries and borders rapidly. The technology that supports virtual worlds is advancing at a rapid rate, paving the way for more realistic environments, connections between different platforms, and new ways to enter and use virtual spaces. As participation and development both continue to increase, these environments are becoming ever more interesting spaces with obvious potential for teaching, learning, and creative expression.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Virtual Worlds need not just mean using second life - other uses and projects such as Sococo provide virtual work environments enabling teams to meet, in a conceptual online spatial user office space, facilitates integrating people. Staffordshire University are working with Sococo to integrate into online classroom use. http://www.sococo.com- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
    another response here

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Just a remark: though this is yet a different topic and technology, I wonder if there are enough parallels to collapse it into one or more of the topics AR, 3D Video, Game-based learning. The fact that no-one has made an entry here yet might hint at a certain (felt) redundancy.
  • I maintain that there is relevance but it might not lie in creating other worlds and avatars but in making sense of spatial awareness and geography in an online environment where a phyical replication or manifesation might facilitate navigating through systems and apllications and thus support Digital literacy.- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • The use of virtual worlds to explore epistemologies has barely begun. The potential for exploring and analyzing modes of knowing is enormous. When a metaphor can become a manipulable within a jointly imagined space, we can truly and deeply "change our minds." Moreover, we will soon see blends of real and virtual worlds that will enrich both spheres. For example, listen to this podcast on "Millicomputing" by Adrian Cockroft: http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail3871.html

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • recreating work spaces, labs, study spaces, understanding behaviours and controlled use of social media and discursive learning- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • another response here

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

There's a new "OpenQwaq" project at Buffalo State's International Center for Studies in Creativity. See their website:
Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project sharing form.