Make as big a mess of my Second Life — and a new virtual campus for my province

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Second Real, originally uploaded by stevegarfield.

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know.” — Daniel Boorstin

I’m arriving very late to the Second Life party for a number of reasons. For one, my bent toward ‘fast, cheap, and out of control’ technologies has left me underwhelmed by top-heavy immersive 3-D environments. And given my demonstrable inability to manage my life and professional interests as they stand, I had my concerns about whether I could handle the increase in mental bandwidth. But given the rapid increase in activity, my uninformed contrarian stance becomes increasing untenable.

My co-instructors and I committed to staging a short foray into SL for the Text Technologies course, so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been poking around the environment and beginning to read up. My so-called thoughts are barely half-baked at this point, but my impressions of the technology itself are surprisingly positive… though my ability to find environments that genuinely engage me needs to improve.

One thing that has been clear to me in this process is the tremendous support available due to efforts of people in my dispersed professional network. I cannot say enough about the great work that Alan and his peers at the NMC have done to establish an environment and supporting documentation. Simply a lifesaver. I’ve enjoyed reading Bryan’s periodic observations, and he’s turned me on to what Warren Ellis is doing. I loved this snarky take on the limitations of gratuitous 3-D by Jon Udell.

And today Katherine Miller here at UBC alerted me to a local initiative that might have big effects:

Four of the Lower Mainland’s major post-secondary educational institutions will simultaneously open a virtual campus in the online cyberworld Second Life and a new real-world $40-million digital media school on Great Northern Way.

The Masters of Digital Media Program is a collaboration between the University of B.C., Simon Fraser University, Emily Carr Institute and BCIT, and is due to welcome its first cohort of 35 students in September 2007. An open house for prospective students is scheduled for Nov. 25 at the Vancouver campus and the virtual campus now being built in the three-dimensional metaverse, peopled by more than one million registered users worldwide.

… While the curriculum, developed in collaboration with local new media companies like Blast Radius and Electronic Arts, is still at the outline stage, Clayman can envision holding classes and interactive labs at the virtual campus.

The aim of the program is to groom the world’s best digital animators and effects creators and that makes Second Life an obvious place to recruit students from all over the world, said program director Gerri Sinclair.

“All kinds of amazing creativity and talent in this very field of digital media is very much in evidence there,” she said.

In addition to taking classes, students will help design and create the virtual campus in Second Life, Sinclair added. Having students create their own learning environment “is the future of educational research,” she said.

Tuition for this program is going to cost twenty grand per year, but given the educational activity in this space, we will be seeing far more accessible projects soon — at least to those who can afford the bandwidth.

From cranky skeptic to provisional convert in under a week. I guess that’s called learning.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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